Although he will likely be best remembered as one of the all-time greatest American athletes, Muhammad Ali also made headway in his embrace of religious tolerance in America. Ali's Islamic faith was central to his message of peace, empathy, and social justice, and the late boxer joined the Nation of Islam in the 1960s and remained a devoted Muslim until his death on Friday. He was arguably the United States' most famous and outspoken follower of Islam, and Muhammad Ali's quotes on Islam through the years still ring true today.
Ali was quite the spokesperson, mostly for himself. He had quite a bit to say about his own success and talent, and wasn't at all worried about being modest. After his legendary fight with George Foreman in 1974, which saw him reclaim his world heavyweight title, he said:
I've wrestled with alligators, I've tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail. You know I'm bad. Just last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I'm so mean, I make medicine sick.
So, yeah. Not exactly a super modest dude, but you have to admit that he's pretty eloquent. And it wasn't always just about himself.
Ali was very outspoken about his Muslim faith, and was always quick to defend against people's distorted views on the religion. After terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, Ali offered these words:
I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.
Racism and religious intolerance rained down on Ali, but he faced it with strength and grace. And he wanted the American people to know that they needed to accept people like him:
I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.
Ali also continued to fight for tolerance against Donald Trump, who proposed a ban on Muslims late last year:
We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.