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Muhammad Ali, Revisited

Attorney Hassen Abdellah, my colleague and erstwhile radio co-host had just returned from the Jenazah service for Muhammad Ali in Louisville. Abdellah and I plan an hour-long radio special Wednesday at 7pm on a local radio station (www.wjffradio.org). It would be an opportunity to share Hassen’s testimony, to talk about sports and social activism, and to dialogue with listeners about the great, departed Muhammad Ali.

Now what?

The full impact of Sunday’s mass shooting at an LGBT club in Florida has not yet hit America’s public consciousness; be assured however, it will soon be taken over by the monster anti-Muslim machine here. That horrible and saddening event in Orlando will surely feed Donald Trump’s alarmism and his campaign against Muslims. It will provoke even the most tolerant and patient to reassess their position.

Before Wednesday evening, our WJFF station director may cancel the planned program. If not, how can we proceed with our celebration of Muhammad Ali in what will doubtless be a volatile atmosphere when the media begin their attacks? I am unsure how we can handle it.

This kind of disruption, interruption and diversion from our essential activist and educational agenda has occurred with awful regularity month after month for decades. Whether a dictator’s murderous whims, or a raging Zionist campaign, The Hague tribunal’s pursuit of war criminals, a careless remark by an inarticulate member of our community or by a Muslim head-of-state, a lop-sided TV debate with a media-illiterate Arab spokesman, a PLO miscalculation, a school textbook with too much truth about Palestinian history, humdrum statements by our talented writers decrying violence and reminding the public what we are not –always what we are not— never getting to what we are; daily bombings in our homelands, young talented journalists assigned to cover war and suffering rather than education, architecture or literature, relentless accounts of hardships endured by any Muslim woman, kidnapped schoolgirls, flogged journalists. It’s so hard to maintain our noble agenda— to follow the sisters’ proud declaration at Ali’s memorial: “I Am Muhammad Ali”.

Stay tuned Wednesday evening. Pray that Allah awards us the patience and journalistic prowess we so need moving forward.

Meanwhile consider setting aside a few hours to view the 2 hour, 15 minute procession of Ali’s final journey through his hometown in Kentucky  and the full 3 hour memorial service  (now distributed –co-opted, as always–by NYT but originally filmed, I believe, by Fox10TV Phoenix, Arizona). Then decide for yourself what Muhammad Ali signifies and can still give meaning to.

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Barbara Nimri Aziz is a New York based anthropologist and journalist. Find her work at www.RadioTahrir.org. She was a longtime producer at Pacifica-WBAI Radio in NY.

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