Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal of a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. drew criticism Wednesday from Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer and one of the most well-known Muslims in America.
In a statement, according to the Associated Press, Ali did not mention Trump by name, but he said the suggestion to ban Muslim immigration "alienated many from learning about Islam." He called on Muslims to "stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda."
Ali also sought to prevent his faith from being tarnished by the actions of terrorists. "I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion," he declared. "These misguided murderers have perverted people's views on what Islam really is."
Given the firestorm that Trump's proposal has sparked, it is perhaps no great surprise that Ali felt compelled to speak out. But the athlete, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and has not been in the public eye much recently, has a long history of being outspoken on politics and faith.
During a May 2, 1976 appearance on "Face the Nation," Ali was asked for his take on that year's presidential election, which pitted incumbent Republican Gerald Ford against Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter.
Ali said that he wasn't planning on voting for anyone - "I don't know enough about politics" - but he said he liked Ford's administration because Ford invited him to the White House to meet Jordan's King Hussein. "Knowing that [Hussein] was a Muslim - my religion - [Ford] thought enough of me to invite me to entertain him and to meet him at the White House."
He also said he liked "the image of a certain man, I like the way he smiles." But when a reporter suggested he was talking about Carter, Ali responded coyly, "I see all the politicians smile - what makes you think I mean Carter?"
Later in the interview, Ali discussed his experience as a Muslim in America. He was asked whether he believes the character of American Islam would be "loosening up a bit" with the 1975 death of Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam leader whose message of black empowerment, critics say, often tipped into anti-white and anti-Semitic hatred.
"What the honorable Elijah Muhammad taught was good for the time, during the thirties, when black people were being castrated, lynched, deprived of freedom, justice, equality, raped. He had to teach that the white man is the devil, his actions toward us is that of the devil," Ali said. "Now that we're no longer being lynched, raped, castrated, we're given equal justice...people are not acting this way today."
"God don't look at our colors," Ali added. "Minds, hearts have no color. God look at our minds and our actions and our deeds. So we have white Muslims, brown Muslims, red Muslims, yellow Muslims, all colors...we recognize all men as brothers and we look at them according to their works. Some blacks can do evil, and whites. So it's not the color now. We look at the actions."
For the latest news and analysis from the presidential campaign trail, tune into "Face the Nation" on Sunday. Check yourlocal listings for airtimes.