Forthcoming

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

Muhammad Ali: His Faith Was Part of His Revolutionary Spirit

2016-06-06

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

When someone famous or very wealthy dies, individuals rush to the fore with anecdotes about when their personal encounters with him or her, all to demonstrate perhaps that they too may have had a role in his/her greatness. So my first reaction to some of the fatuous statements in today’s media, reported by (mainly) men who had met Muhammad Ali, was impatience. They’re opportunists, I thought. Theirs is another testimony to record the passing of a special person yet by someone who had no role in his greatness, they are insignificant. Yet, as one of those insignificants, I now find myself wanting to give testimony, even from my distant perch.

Praise to this man who graced the earth and offered such beauty and truth to so many of us, in so many places in so many lives and across the planet.

He proffered so, so much--athletic excellence, grace and humor, pride and courage, political sophistication, teaching by example and by his prowess in boxing, his gentle, determined assertion of his beliefs and his principles.

I would like to think that Muhammad Ali’s embrace of Islam contributed to the excellence of his accomplishments. Certainly he felt so. He said so. His Black Nationalist statements and beliefs were eventually underpinned by his identity as a Muslim and his assertion of his values as a Muslim, this against widespread opposition and resistance from others. (Although there may be many today who’d deny this.)

Muhammad Ali’s pride in his Muslim name, his rejection of his ‘slave name’, his public worship as a Muslim, his defense of his Muslim beliefs were all part of his growth and his truth. Certainly he learned from Black Muslims like Elijah Mohammed and Malcolm X, but that was still a time in American history when religious enlightenment of this kind was hardly recognized. For such a public figure, a hero to so many especially outside the US, and as an undisputed champion in a highly competitive sport, to publically and with such exaltation, embrace Islam was part of Muhammad’s revolutionary power.

Then, in what might be called the second phase of his life, his illness with Parkinson's disease, surely his faith fortified his willingness and ability to continue to work as a public figure, to harvest charity for others and remain a living source of joy for those who might meet him and touch him. Few public figures who endure a handicap on that scale can continue to give so much to others.

No one would dispute that Ali is in a class unto himself. There is-- there was-- no other like Muhammad Ali. Today his passing into the realm of Allah has given us another chance to remember some of what he accomplished, to listen to his words, to watch videos of him in action, to learn more about his achievements and to better comprehend what a gift he is.

I became aware of Muhammad Ali only with my emerging political consciousness late in my life. Not living in the USA during the 1960s, my gaze was never directed to this controversial, flashy youth when he first won accolades as a sports champion, not even during his Viet Nam anti-war declarations, nor following that when he was banished from the sport and publicly vilified. Finally however, in 1997 I was introduced to a newly released documentary film “When We Were Kings” (http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/06/05/when_we_were_kings_captures_muhammad_ali_in_his_prime.html) that recorded the 1974 boxing match in Zaire, Africa. Apart from Ali’s boxing talent, there was plenty in that film that demonstrated to me the exceptional character, brilliance and pride of this young man. I was smitten.

Thus began my drive to learn more about Muhammad Ali. Repeatedly I was rewarded with joyous, funny wisdom, winsome images and sounds and declarations that firmly remain in my memory and my heart. I nourish a quiet admiration and inspiration from all that I’ve learned about Muhammad.

How could such an irrepressible brave and spirited ‘pretty’ soul emerge out of a country I had become ashamed of, this ruthless warring nation, a country that seems mired in self deceit, committed to its imperialism, a nation that harbors such divisiveness and inequality? Could this ugly ‘America’ take credit for the beautiful spirit in Muhammad Ali? Could this Muhammad have emerged in any other oppressive, apartheid nation? Could a rough and sometimes brutal sport have nourished such grace and joy? Could Muslim faith sustain such courage and poetry?

I guess that is why Muhammad Ali is so special. The world rejoices in this gift.

 

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