Tens of thousands are gathering in Louisville, Kentucky for the funeral of Muhammad Ali. The funeral events began on Thursday with a Muslim prayer service attended by 14,000 people.
Ali wanted the service, known as a Jenazah, to be “a teaching moment.” American Muslims attending the service and watching on TV said they hoped that the public prayers would help Americans to become more familiar with Islam and its practices. Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36496473
In 1964, Ali famously converted to Islam, changing his name from Cassius Clay, which he called his “slave name” – even though he never grew up in slavery, thanks to the efforts of abolitionists.
But far from being a “slave name,” Ali was named after Cassius Marcellus Clay, a Kentucky planter, politician and friend of Abraham Lincoln, who worked for the abolition of slavery.
The grandfather of Ali, Herman Heaton Clay, a descendant of African-American slaves, named his son Cassius Marcellus Clay in tribute to the abolitionist, and Cassius Clay senior gave his own son the same name, which the heavyweight champion boxer rejected.
Muhammad Ali’s mother, Odessa Lee Clay (nee O’Grady) was a strong Christian. Ali later said, “My mother is a Baptist, and when I was growing up, she taught me all she knew about God. Every Sunday, she dressed me up, took me and my brother to church, and taught us the way she thought was right. She taught us to love people and treat everybody with kindness. She taught us it was wrong to be prejudiced or hate.
Despite his mother’s faith, he linked Christians with plunder and enslavement. “How could they say that my religion, Islam was a ‘race hate’ religion after all the plunder and enslavement and domination of my people by white Christians in the name of white supremacy?” he was quoted as saying, never seeing his own prejudice.
My question is this; which religion is into plunder and enslavement – Christianity, or Islam? What did he squander with his anti-white sentiment?
It reminds me of the song “The Boxer.”
I am just a poor boy Though my story's seldom told I have squandered my resistance For a pocketful of mumbles Such are promises All lies and jest Still, a man hears what he wants to hear And disregards the rest - Paul Simon, "The Boxer"
In abandoning the name of his father, and the faith of his mother, did he back the wrong horse?
Muhammad Ali wasn’t the only thing to come out of Louisville, Kentucky. It’s also home to the Kentucky Derby, a famous horse race.
“Ban Sharia, a horse born in 1972 in Kentucky, ended up running in 18 races in the 1970’s.
Ban Sharia came from a line of Middle Eastern-sounding names. The breeder was Cragwood Estates, a stable owned by the family of Charles and Jane Engelhard, who lived in New Jersey.
Charles Engelhard was a very rich man, who made his fortune dealing in platinum, gold and silver. Engelhard was rumored to be the man who inspired Ian Fleming’s 1959 book “Goldfinger” and the Sean Connery movie that followed in 1964. The film’s plot has Bond investigating gold smuggling by gold magnate Auric Goldfinger and eventually uncovering Goldfinger’s plans to contaminate the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.
What is not known is why a stable owned by the Engelhard family named a horse “Ban Sharia” in the 1970’s. Was it a warning, a sign of things to come by a family in the know?
Truth is stranger than fiction.