Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Muhammad Ali offered a pithy quote about religion while visiting the World Trade Center site.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Origins: In short, former heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali did pay a visit to New York City on
[Colangelo, 2001]That's it, however. The quip about religion sounds like something the public would expect the pithy and pugnacious Ali (a long-time adherent and defender of Islam) to make, but although he supposedly said it in the presence of reporters, none of them seems to have written about it afterwards. Instead, this quote began circulating on the Internet, and then, weeks after Ali allegedly said it, newspapers started mentioning it — not as something one of their (or anyone else's) reporters had actually heard Ali say, but as something they had been told he said:
"What's really hurting me, the name Islam is involved, and Muslim is involved and causing trouble and starting hate and violence," Ali said during a rare, impromptu speech at the World Trade Center attack command center.
"Islam is not a killer religion," said Ali, who has suffered with Parkinson's disease since 1984 and hasn't spoken at length in public in years. "Islam means peace," he said. "I couldn't just sit home and watch people label Muslims as the reason for this problem."
But Ali said he would back "100%" whatever action the United States takes against the perpetrators of last week's terrorist attack.
Those people, he said, are not followers of Islam.
Former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali visited the ruins of the World Trade Center on Thursday. When reporters asked how he felt about the suspects sharing his Islamic faith, Ali said, "Religions all have different names, but they all contain the same truths," adding, "I think the people of our religion should be tolerant and understand people believe different things."
[Akhar, 2001]This sounds to us like a typical case of someone's attributing an anonymous quote to the mouth deemed most likely to have uttered it.
A friend sent an e-mail which related an unsubstantiated story about former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali visiting the ruins of the World Trade Center just days after the attack.
When reporters asked how he felt about the suspects sharing his Islamic faith, Ali responded pleasantly:
"How do you feel about Hitler sharing yours?"
As a footnote, we should point out that the issue of whether or not Hitler was a believing Christian has been long debated.
Last updated: 7 March 2008
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