Muhammad Ali’s Memorial: An Aftermath

When the Champion Muhammad Ali passed away last week I had no clue how to react. I wasn’t sad. I felt no emotions. In self-defense I thought maybe because I was born years after his last fight I cannot comprehend his stardom.

Today, while flipping TV channels I saw Ali’s Memorial Service was about to commence. I saw Will Smith standing in the front row, that triggered to me pause briefly at CNN. Little did I know that I will end up spending nearly 3 hours hearing to all the tributes. Warm, fuzzy & inspired, that’s all I am right now.

It was strange to see that an American event, co-hosted by the International Olympics Committee airing on global television would start with recitation of the Quran. I scratched my head when I saw old videos of Ali being played on live TV, where he looked young & hot-headed, telling a reporter that he was Muhammad Ali, he will not conform.

I was intrigued by the way his daughters & wives were raising their hands as a Syrian immigrant read the Koran’s translation. This was followed by a Protestant Minister talking about Ali’s stand against racism. What totally knocked off my socks was when a companion of Ali’s from Anti-Vietnam war, a Rabbi shared the story of how Ali risked his career & spoke against the Government. He said the only way to pay Ali a tribute would be to become like Ali. Stand up against injustice and refuse to follow conformity. The Rabbi dared to say the following live on global television: the Israeli PM should know that the only way Israel could be safe is if he stops attacking the West Bank & accept Palestine’s existence. The cynic inside me refused to believe that he was saying it all for any political mileage. He received a standing ovation. I could see Bill Clinton, Will Smith & Schwarzenegger being tolerant (even appreciative) of the Rabbi’s exhilarating speech.

There were many more heartening stories narrated by Presidents Obama and Clinton, his wife Lonnie (my favourite line from her speech: if Ali didn’t like the rules, he rewrote the rules) & many other friends.

There were prayers said by Australian Aboriginals and Chinese Monks. It was the most pluralistic inter-faith event I have ever seen in my life. For a few hours I actually forgot that this is the very United States that has nominated Trump as a Presidential candidate.

So much hope. So much tolerance. So many stories of changing the world. Maybe we can take a note from Ali’s Memorial Service today & realise that maybe this is what being a Progressivist is all about. Be non-conforming but empathetic, be bold yet all-embracing.

For me it’s time to learn more about him. Maybe you should also try.