On a warm and humid day on April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, does not go to the gym for a workout. Instead, the 25-year-old fighter makes his way to the federal courthouse in Houston, Texas. He has been summoned to Texas to report for induction into the armed forces of the United States of America.
A large crowd of onlookers has gathered at the courthouse by the time Ali and his lawyers arrive. A mob of reporters and photographers rush him as he gets out of a taxi at the foot of the courthouse steps. Ali has already promised in public to refuse induction into the army, thus risking for himself a long jail sentence and the possible ruin of his professional career.
A group of black students from Texas Southern University march back and forth across the street, shouting their support for Ali. At the top of the courthouse steps, Ali's trainer, Bundini, gestures across the street. "There she is now."
Ali's most vivid memory of this woman is from after his tough and bloody fight with Terrell. That night, as he made his way through the crowd after the fight, she appeared before him with pen and paper and asked for his autograph. Ali clearly remembered her face from after his recent fight with Williams.
"I come to all your fights," the woman he has since named Miss Velvet Green said to him. "I will keep coming," she continued as she neatly folded the paper containing the autograph he had given her, "until I see them take you out on a stretcher. God won't always let evil win."
For Ali, this nameless woman in the green velvet dress has come to personify the hatred directed toward him because of his exuberant style, personal beliefs, and religious convictions. For every man or woman cheering for him to win in or out of the ring, there is a Miss Velvet Green hoping to see him knocked out, sent to prison, or even killed. These intense feelings have been aroused because Ali is more than just another black heavyweight champion. For some, he is a symbol of black pride; for others, he is an example of the kind of courage one must have if one is to protest against an unpopular war; and for many more––including Miss Velvet Green––he is the incarnation of threatening and unwanted social change. He is a proud Muslim, standing up for what he think is his right: To practice his religion freely.
She stands on the other side of the street, waiting until Ali spots her. Then, assured that she has been noticed by him, she begins to leave. Her figure in green is the last thing that Ali sees before he turns around to confront the power of the US government.
Muhammad Ali has faced hate before. In the 1960, he won an Olympic gold medal in Rome. He was given a parade down the main street of his hometown. However, when he went to eat at a restaurant, he was refused service because he was black. He subsequently threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River in disgust at the country he had represented at the Olympic Games.
This Olympic gold medal was given to him once again in Atlanta Olympics of 1996 where his lighting of the Olympic flame began the 1996 Olympic games.
The world has changed now. At least for Ali. He is liked by everyone. He is welcomed everywhere. Although Muhammad Ali is now fifty five and has been retired from boxing for more than fifteen years, he is one the most famous men in the world, being identifiable through out five continents.
Muhammad Ali: Thankful to Allah about his health
Not many words come out from this once most talkative of champions. But the mind behind his Parkinson's mask is functioning nomally.
Doctors say Ali suffers from post-traumatic Parkinson's Syndrome, a result of injuries from fighting and repeated blows to the head. Of this condition, Ali says that he has had a good life before and has one now. He doesn't need sympathy; he just wants to accept Allah's will. In fact, he says there are no idols in Islam and that perhaps because he was made the idol of millions, Allah humbled him to underscore the fact that no one is greater than Allah.
Ali' main struggle now is to try to please Allah in all that he does. Conquering the world didn't bring him true happiness; true happiness, he says, is derived only from worshipping Allah.
(This passage adopted from American Jihad: Islam after Malcolm X, by Steven Barboza)
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