February 28, 1964
Clay Says He Has Adopted Islam Religion and Regards It as Way to Peace
Miami Beach, Feb. 27 (AP)--The new heavyweight champion, Cassius Clay, said today he had adopted the Islam religion. He called Islam the best way to bring about lasting peace.
"They call it the Black Muslims," the 22-year-old Clay said. "This is a press word. It is not a legitimate name. But Islam is a religion and there are 750 million people all over the world who believe in it, and I am one of them."
He said he had made an extended study of the religion over a period of months and had become convinced it was "the truth and the light."
"A rooster crows only when it sees the light," he said. "Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light and I'm crowing."
Clay Is Relaxing
Clay, who stopped Sonny Liston in their 15-round title fight here Tuesday night, was relaxing at his temporary quarters when he was told that the leader of the black supremacy sect, Elijah Muhammad, had told a meeting in Chicago that the new ring champion was a disciple.
"That is true, and I am proud of it," Clay said. "But what is all the commotion about? Nobody asks other people about their religion. But now I am the champion, I am the king, so it seems the world is all shook up about what I believe.
"You call it Black Muslims, I don't. The real name is Islam. That means peace. Yet people brand us a hate group. They say we want to take over the country. They say we're Communists.
"That is not true. Followers of Allah are the sweetest people in the world. They don't carry knives. They don't tote weapons. They pray five times a day.
"The women wear dresses that come all the way to the floor and they don't commit adultery. The men don't marry white women.
"All they want to do is live in peace with the world. They don't hate anybody. They don't want to stir up any kind of trouble. All the meetings are held in secret, without any fuss or hate- mongering."
Religion Is Credited
Clay said that his religion, which had brought him "inner peace," was responsible for his sensational upset victory over Liston, an 8-to-1 favorite.
"God was with me--I couldn't have done it without God," he added.
The new champion said he was disturbed to find that the Islam group had drawn the fire of integrationist forces among the Negro people.
"We believe that forced and token integration is but a temporary and not an everlasting solution to the Negro problem," he added. "It is merely a pacifier. We don't think one people should force its culture upon another.
"I get telephone calls every day. They want me to carry signs. They want me to picket. They tell me it would be a wonderful thing if I married a white woman because this would be good for brotherhood.
"I don't want to be blown up. I don't want to be washed down sewers. I just want to be happy with my own kind."
Clay said it was only natural that people of the same culture and heritage should live together.
"Animals in the jungle flock together," he said. Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Chinese and Japanese all live better if they are together.
"I don't like hot Mexican food and I would be unhappy if somebody made me eat it. At the same time, you may not like what I like--turnip greens and hominy grits, or country music. If you don't like it you shouldn't have to accept it."
Attitude Is Resented
The boyish-faced fighter, descendant of a runaway Kentucky slave, said he resented the fact that some people attached "dire motives" to his Islam connections.
"I am a good boy. I never have done anything wrong," he insisted. "I have never been in jail. I have never been in court.
"I don't join any integration marches. I don't pay any attention to all those white women who wink at me. I don't carry signs.
"I don't impose myself on people who don't want me. If I go in somebody's house where I'm not welcome, I am uncomfortable. So I stay away.
"I like white people. I like my own people. They can live together without infringing on each other. You can't condemn a man for wanting peace. If you do, you condemn peace itself."
End of Article
Muhammad Ali was the first bona fide American celebrity to embrace the faith, Ali was a hero to millions of Muslims, in America and around the world. Many African-American Muslims were inspired to convert to Islam because of Ali.
Ali is today a traditional Sunni Muslim, having left the Nation of Islam in 1975.
Article from The New York Times