In A Nutshell
Among the thousands of white faces, hidden under pointed shrouds, a black face walked up the steps and addressed the assembled KKK members. He told them that he believed in what they were fighting for, and that his organization also shared those beliefs. That man was Muhammad Ali.
The Whole Bushel
To put this into context, we need to start at the beginning. Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay. He changed his name when he joined the controversial group, the Nation Of Islam. Although founded on Islamic beliefs, the Nation Of Islam has some bizarre ideas that are in no way supported by the Koran. One of those beliefs is that when Armageddon happens, Nation Of Islam members will be saved by a UFO sent from God. Basically, the Nation of Islam is to Islam as Mormonism is to Christianity—not widely accepted by the mainstream Christians or Muslims. It was beliefs like these, along with their black separatism, that meant that Muhammad Ali was once very unpopular in the United States and that his organization were often likened to a black KKK.
The Nation Of Islam controlled Muhammad Ali in many ways, often orchestrating what he said or did in public. Probably the most bizarre thing the Nation Of Islam ever did was to reach out to the leaders of the actual Klu Klux Klan. It was their belief that although the Klan was undoubtedly racist, mainstream politicians that peaceful campaigners for civil rights were reaching out to were just as racist behind close doors. It was then decided that to facilitate this “friendship” Muhammad Ali would speak on their behalf at a Klan rally.
When the day came, Ali obliged. He turned up at the rally and stood on the stage, faced by some of the most evil hate-filled men in existence and told them that they were kind of right. That racial mixing was bad, according to him. He told them how the Nation Of Islam, and he himself, also shared their ideals on racial segregation and how “eagles should be with eagles” and so forth. Of course, as Muhammad Ali became one of the most well-known and well-loved sportsmen of history, this embarrassing event was swept under the rug.
Show Me The Proof
Minister Abdul Rahman Muhammad & Muhammad Ali (video)
The Telegraph: Muhammad Ali’s meetings with Ku Klux Klan leaders revealed by documentary
Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties, Mike Marqusee