At a time when there is so much hatred and fearmongering directed against Islam and American Muslims by prominent politicians, it took Muhammad Ali’s funeral to bring humanity together.The world's richest countries can and should do much more to help the worlds most vulnerable people together to remind us of our higher ideals, reminding us of our society’s problems with racial and religious prejudice, opening our eyes to racial and religious universalism. Am currently still blown away by the powerful social justice speech from a respected Rabbi that has taken world leaders at the memorial service of Muhammad Ali by storm.
Longtime interfaith activist Rabbi Michael Lerner sparked uproarious applause and repeated standing ovations when he addressed mourners at Muhammad Ali’s funeral on Friday with a rousing call for social justice, denouncing the occupation of Palestine, the U.S. drone war, rampant Islamophobia and the mass incarceration of African Americans. had a hard time loving themselves” and calling for an end to Islamophobia. .
Thousands of friends, family, celebrities, and political figures attended Ali’s traditional Muslim memorial service in Louisville, Kentucky, which spanned more than two days. Ali died last week at
74 from complications related to his Parkinson’s disease.
“If Muhammad Ali were here today, I’m sure his message small battles – put your life energies and money into fundamental systemic transformation,” said Lerner, who is also a
political activist and editor of the Jewish magazine Tikkun. Lerner also said that what made Ali a hero was his courage to stand up to the “immoral” war in Vietnam by proclaiming himself a
conscientious objector. Lerner was an anti-war activist along with Ali, who refused to serve in the US army and was immediately stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967.
“Knowing he would lose his title, knowing he would face the racism of American society that would be heaped upon him forsaying no to the crazy war in Vietnam,” Ali said no to the war,
Lerner said. “He spoke truth to power – we must speak truth to power,” he added.
Lerner’s eulogy, and the entire memorial service, had a strong interfaith message:
To honor Ali, he said:
"We will not tolerate politicians or anyone else putting down Muslims,"“Tell the one percent who own 80 percent of the wealth in this country that it’s time to share that wealth," he continued. "Tell the politicians who use violence worldwide and then preach nonviolence to the oppressed that it’s time for them to end their drone warfare and every other kind of warfare, to close our military bases around the world, to bring the troops home.”“Tell judges to let out of prison the many African Americans swept up by racist police and imprisoned by racist judges,” Lerner continued, raising his fist and pointing his fingers. “Tell the leaders of Turkey to stop killing the Kurds. Tell Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that the way to get security for Israel is to stop the occupation of the West Bank and help create a Palestinian state."
“The way to get security is for the United States to become known as the most generous and caring country in the world, not the most powerful,” he said. “We could start with a global and domestic plan to once and for all end global and domestic poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, inadequate health care.”
He ended by affirming his “commitment to the well-being of all Muslims on this planet, as well as all people of all faiths and secular humanists.” Said Lerner:
"We Jews, as well as our non-Jewish allies in all religions and secular humanists, wish to pay honor to the Muslims of the world as they continue today the fast of Ramadan, and join with them in
mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali, a great fighter for justice and peace."
A Beautiful tribute, talking Islamphobia, Vietnam, Palestine, and justice. Ali's legacy will be kept alive by those who dream of justice, equality and freedom for all. Ali knew the secret of the butterfly was to transform itself, we too have a continuing part to play in transforming the world. Catalysts for change that keep standing up for the most vulnerable among us, holding the powers that be to account.
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in a world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's not a dare - Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."
- Muhammad Ali