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Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson And The Donald Trump Thing

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More than a year and a half ago, when Donald Sterling was the most vilified man in American media and Donald Trump was relatively low on that list, I suggested that a good cure for Sterling’s poisonous racism and bigotry would be for the now former owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers to discover and embrace Islam.

This is a religion without racism. If true Islam could change Malcolm X from a man who believed white people were devils into a man who was happy to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alongside his white brothers and sisters in Mecca, it could do wonders for Sterling, whose gross history of racist comments and business practices eventually got him kicked out of the league.

Today, as the United States turns its attention to next year’s presidential election, the most talked-about candidate is a man who apparently believes he has discovered all there is to know about Islam and is no closer to embracing the religion than Sterling is to inviting Magic Johnson over to his house for a Kwanzaa celebration.

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Trump’s presidential campaign has played out as if he’s in competition with himself to see which group of people he can most egregiously offend and alienate. Any other candidate with such a track record would have been shamed out of the race by now, but the not-so-secret formula to Trump’s success at getting attention is that the real estate mogul is rich enough to fund his own campaign and therefore isn’t beholden to pleasing any sponsors.

Trump’s most recent and, so far, most offensive stunt was his proposal that Muslims — like, all of us — be banned from entering the country. In the wake of a mass shooting in California allegedly committed by a Muslim husband and wife, Trump’s exact words were that he was, “calling for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

He added, “Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. … I think that we should definitely disallow any Muslims from coming in. Any of them. The reason is simple: we can’t identify what their attitude is.”

Headlining the flood of sane and reasonable responses to Trump’s insane and unreasonable idea, current U.S. president Barack Obama mentioned that Muslims make up a diverse and rich segment of the American population, including “sports heroes.” Trump replied on Twitter that he didn’t know of any Muslim sports heroes, which has now drawn sports media outlets like ESPN and Yahoo! into the discussion regarding Muslim athletes in America.

What makes Trump’s claim that there are no Muslim sports heroes in America even more ridiculous is the reality that two of the most famous athletes in this planet’s history — two athletes whom Trump has met personally — happen to be a pair of Muslim boxers: Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.

The two former world heavyweight champions have naturally been sought out by media members looking for a response to Trump, and just as their styles were very different in the ring, Ali and Tyson had blatantly different views on the subject.

Photo credit: John Shearer/WireImage

Ali, 73, said in a statement to NBC News: “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 continued, “Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”

Tyson, 49, said this to TMZ: “Anybody that was ever president of the United States offended some group of people or some groups of people were offended. He’s still ahead in the polls and he deserves a chance. If they don’t like him, they shouldn’t vote for him.”

As he has done for the better part of his six-plus decades in the spotlight, Ali’s comments resonated with the public, both Muslims and non-Muslims. As much as the charismatic champion was a master of hitting and not getting hit in the ring, he has been an expert at saying the right thing at the right time in the right tone.

Tyson, meanwhile, is notorious for his missteps and regrettable decisions, and this just looks like the latest one. Some in the Muslim community might view Tyson’s apparent support of Trump as something akin to a black man endorsing the Ku Klux Klan, or a Jewish man joining Hitler’s Nazi movement. Some may not think it’s that serious. Either way, it doesn’t look or sound good.

I was a fan of Tyson the boxer long before I converted to Islam in 2013 — and long before he converted to Islam while in prison between 1992 and 1995 — so I have some practice in looking beyond his cringe-worthy words and actions to find a silver lining. At times I could be described as a Tyson apologist.

While I’m not going to defend Tyson’s support of Trump, I will say this much: Tyson and Trump have been friendly with each other since Tyson’s heyday in the 1980s and ’90s as a huge moneymaker for Trump’s hotels, which hosted some of Tyson’s fights. Trump reportedly tried to help Tyson get out of prison. Tyson at least knows Trump better than most of Trump’s critics, and perhaps he — like NFL superstar and apparent Trump supporter Tom Brady — simply doesn’t want to throw his friend under the bus publicly. Maybe Tyson is even afraid of what a man with Trump’s wealth can do to him, a man who has had more than his share of financial problems, if he turns him into an enemy.

Tyson has shown himself in the past to be loyal (to a fault) to charismatic older men who profit off of him; namely boxing promoter Don King. And so standing up for the honor of the ummah, his billion-strong global Muslim community, may be less important for Tyson than sticking up for someone who he believes has had his back. I wouldn’t do it, but I’m not the one in the position of having a friend say something that offends me and my people.

The one positive that I can find in Tyson’s take on Trump is that he is — even if it was not fully his intention — displaying an admirable commitment to the democratic process.

America is a country that theoretically allows the people to pick their leaders. What Tyson is really saying, beyond any personal biases, is that if the majority of the voters want Trump in office, then he shouldn’t be disqualified from the race because he has offended people. As Tyson said, if the people don’t like Trump, they won’t vote for him.

That has actually been the scariest part of Trump’s presidential campaign. We can say that he appeals to the lowest common denominator of Americans — the racist, xenophobic, anti-Muslim, hypocritical, blindly privileged lot of them — but as Trump gains supporters it becomes more apparent that there are a lot of Americans in that lowest common denominator. There are at least enough to make Trump the most popular candidate among Republicans and conservatives.

As long as his numbers are on the rise, he is not going to turn down his blatantly un-American stance. If anything, he’ll continue to turn it up. Surely he has realized that the people who want to “make America great again” are actually as un-American as it gets.

As 2015 turns into 2016 and the race to replace Obama boils down to a 1-on-1 main event, obviously most Muslims in America will hope Trump becomes a non-factor. Because as much as the two-time election of Obama represented what we thought was progress for America, the public picking Trump would be a tremendous step backwards, into a place where it’s likely that no American Muslim — including our sports heroes — will feel safe on their own soil.

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Amaar Abdul-Nasir was born and raised in Seattle, Wash., and received his B.A. in Journalism from Seattle University. A sports writer and editor by trade, Amaar founded UmmahSports.net, which focuses on Muslim athletes and health and fitness in the Muslim community, following his conversion to Islam in 2013.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Vito

    December 21, 2015 at 7:18 PM

    Maybe Trump doesnt want America to become like Europe, with muslim neighborhoods that are no go zones with sharia law. Trump loves this country and will do the right thing. Trump will make America great again.

    • Amaar

      December 22, 2015 at 2:35 AM

      If that is your standard, America is already worse than Europe. We have not only neighborhoods but entire towns and cities that are “no-go zones” for Black people, LGBT and other oppressed minority groups. If this country is ever going to be great, we’ll need that to change.

      • David

        March 10, 2016 at 12:51 PM

        Like East L.A.?

    • Riz

      December 22, 2015 at 9:49 AM

      There are no ‘no go zones with sharia law’ in europe.
      Maybe you should stop believing everything you see/hear on the TV.
      I live in the UK and a number of politicians and police commissioners have spoken out after Trump’s stupid comments saying no such areas exist in the UK.

    • Freddy Niche

      December 22, 2015 at 5:51 PM

      As already mentioned there are no such no-go zones. There are none in France. There are areas high in crime but that are diverse, not just Muslim.
      Stop listening to bigots and racists. One very welcoming ,predominantly Muslim, neighborhood is in St. Louis, Missouri.

    • Antonio Brandao

      June 5, 2016 at 8:05 PM

      Vito you make a good point. But this “Riz” guy who says he lives in the UK and that there are no “no-go” zones, is either oblivious to reality of plainly lying in our faces. I lived in the UK for many years, travelled north to south. England has plenty of Muslim no-go zones where Sharia is applied (covertly) and where the police doesn’t dare to enter. France may seems to be even worse (with places like Calais), but I never went there myself to be sure. On YouTube there is plenty of footage showing Afghans and Pakistanis in the UK celebrating the fact there there are no white people in their neighbourhoods. In Germany Muslim kids celebrate living for crime, and bully German kids for fun, even post videos of it online. In Sweden there are many no-go zones and there it’s even worse, where the police is even more afraid to enter (Swedish cops are very soft). Be careful with what you wish for guys, there are always media cover-ups about this recently, they even tried to cover-up the NYE sexual assaults in Cologne. And they managed to cover-up the mass child rapes in Rotherdam, UK (look it up! circa 1400 children abused). Don’t take me wrong I have nothing against Muslims it’s just that desperate people, no matter where they are from, often get criminal and it’s understandable a country may want to close it’s borders sometimes for security sake. Mass immigration will always bring desperate people who shortcut via crime to their needs/desires. And, Trump didn’t suggest expelling the Muslims who are CURRENTLY inside the US, so those shouldn’t be offended. Neither did he suggest to bake them in ovens in some sort of Muslim Holocaust so take it easy on him. If you have security concerns in your neighbourhood you might consider closing your house more strictly for a while, no one should blame you for that or should they? There’s a lot of shit happening in the World today and every nation should be allowed to protect itself without insult!

  2. mojo

    December 22, 2015 at 9:40 AM

    Amaar, can you name a Town or a city that is a no go area for Black people ??
    I will join you in a protest and walk by your side through this awful place.
    Obama….. How did that happen????

    • Amaar

      December 22, 2015 at 5:45 PM

      Your privilege is showing. Seriously, ask any one of your Black friends and they’ll tell you. It varies from person to person, region to region, but we’re raised to know where you shouldn’t go to avoid the worst cops, KKK, White supremacists, Confederate-flag-wavers, etc.

      • mojo

        December 28, 2015 at 5:30 PM

        My privilege is showing?? You are the one with the brilliant American Education, living in a land of Liberty and Democracy, a land of opportunity along with personal Rights. People are lining up to live in your USA, some are dying on the journey.
        No mention of these towns and cities that have “no go zones”.
        You revert to the usual trick of changing the reference.
        Although my Black friends did say there are areas which I should not go into for fear of Gangs, drug runners, illegal arms dealing and a good chance of being mugged and stabbed by kids who do not know who not their fathers.
        I await your information on these towns and cities.

  3. Aafia

    December 25, 2015 at 11:06 AM

    Trump doesn’t knows of his rich history of American Muslims who had shaped America.He doesn’t even knows the American Muslim sportsperson (with whom he had shaked hands Earlier).
    Muslims have Contributed a lot in Shaping of America.Here are just a few of them :
    http://islamhashtag.com/without-muslims-america-would-be-a-poorer-country/

    • Oscar Martinez

      March 5, 2016 at 3:51 PM

      Only abroad Trump is being recognized as a dangerous Ur-fascist in the guise of a conservative; we in the United States have a blind spot for detecting dangerous political leaders who can unleash an all-against-all civil war. Take a look at Trump’s empty, opportunistic political discourse; he is misleading disenfranchised white Americans into believing that a return to the glory of a WASP-dominated society is possible. It is possible; just that it would take the Balkans-like wiping out of entire ethnic populations. With the arsenal of weapons in hands of White Americans it is not an implausible possibility; plus because the United States is a Calvinist nation dozens of millions are waiting for an eschatological rapture and willing to unleash it. So the monster Trump is opening a Pandora’s Box of unforeseeable long-term consequences; it is already almost too late to stop this monster, whose job is to divide and conquer, dividing an already Balkanized nation. May God bless America because we really need it.

  4. agustin

    January 16, 2016 at 10:50 PM

    los latinos tenemos derechos, yo soy chileno y opino por todos los latinos ya sean argentinos, mexicanos, cubanos, etc….somos PERSONAS, todos, latinos, musulmanes, etc

    • agustin

      January 16, 2016 at 10:53 PM

      All the latins have rights, im chilean and i thought like all latinamerican people that he’s wrong….all latins are PEOPLE, ALL……latins, musulmans, and other people have rights too

  5. Karen Fletcher

    January 20, 2016 at 9:01 PM

    I have been perusing Trump Muslim articles for the last hour, looking for one to use for my class assignment (I’m supposed to find an online post/comment I disagree with and form a counterargument). Reading all of Trump’s articles, the comments from my white “Christian” demographic…I truly feel sick to my stomach.
    This may be my only chance to contact any sort of a Muslim community, and so please, PLEASE allow me to take it:
    I am so, so sorry that this is happening to you. I am disturbed by the hatred our fellow Americans have and devastating ugliness of it all. Please know that this very vocal minority is just that – a minority. Unfortunately, they seem to be the loudest sometimes, and I hope that more of the supporting majority will lend their voices and aid to you. Our inaction may cause terrible regret in the future.
    My religion, that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints aka Mormon, is so commonly wildly misunderstood and has also known persecution for religious beliefs: my ancestors were driven out of their homes and slaughtered in the 1800s. Though my people and I are no longer in such danger or facing the same kind of hate as you are, I have felt the sting that comes from closed minds and assumption, and I feel for you. Your religion is beautiful. I wish I was in an area that had more of your demographic. You beautiful, wonderful, courageous American Muslims are in my thoughts and prayers. I wish I could kneel next to one of you in prayer, see a pilgrimage to Mecca, or have you show me your Qur’an. Though we call our God by different names, I know that He – your Allah, my Heavenly Father – loves you. I promise you now that I will not be silent, but I will act with you.
    May Allah bless you during this terrible time and grant you peace in the days ahead,

    Karen Fletcher

    P.S. If Trump somehow wins, can we all move to Canada? My in-laws are there.

    • KurdAlways

      January 24, 2016 at 10:33 PM

      You’re so sweet for your comment! Thank you kindly!!! There are many places you can go to to be alongside a Muslim (I.e. mosque or etc., doors are always open and don’t be afraid they’ll be informative regarding whatever you inquire).
      We want to teach others to be accepting and live in democracy but I find it funny and contradicting that we always have a group to pick on as time goes…such hypocrites and bs. Knowledge is key and going to the source for such knowledge will get you the best and truest info regarding any matter!!! So meet a Muslim and get to know what Islam is about and understand that we too as Muslims are fighting in the front line against such terrorist and losing lives everyday in Kurdistane of Iraq (you’d think this isis group would be against faiths opposing their own, how ironic that they are only against Kurds, which are 95% Muslim…)
      All these politicians talk a bunch of bull crap about fight against terrorism, I have yet to see such politicians give FULL support to the Kurds with weapons to get rid of the threat, it seems Isis always has the updated weaponry and Kurds are left with old scraps. Regardless, Proud to be a Kurdish Muslim and standing our ground without the help of these bastards who are only talk. Please stop believing all the b.s the media feeds you and stop wasting life….

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