This week the world is mourning the death of Mohammad Ali (aka Cassius Clay) the former heavyweight boxer who converted to Islam and then refused to be conscripted during the Viet Nam War.
There are many stories about Ali being played over and over on the sports shows and there is no doubt the man was a great boxer and an entertaining person. He was also an advocate for several causes and he did a number of good deeds, as outlined in these stories, throughout his life.
All of this is well and good but he refused to serve his nation, the very nation that allowed him to enjoy success. He claimed to be a conscientious objector (but not until the standards were changed and he was eligible to be drafted – he was originally classified as too dumb) and that he would not violate his religious beliefs (anyone who sees Islam on a daily basis knows that fighting is right up their alley).
First off, there are plenty of jobs that CO’s can do in the military that will allow them to serve and remain true to their faith, if indeed their faith is at issue. Ali was first classified as not smart enough to serve but when the standards were lowered and he was inducted he chose not to participate at all, he disobeyed the law and he let better men than he go off and do the nation’s bidding while he stayed home and made money boxing.
Well, for a time anyway. The government would not let him box for a period of time because of his refusal.
The second point deals with the idea that he can’t go to war and fight people. He beat people up for a living. Boxing is not a peaceful sport and engaging in it causes harm (as evidenced by Ali in his later years) so claiming to be non-violent to avoid war rings kind of hollow. Then again, his objections were that he could not fight Christian wars or wars of unbelievers and could only fight a war declared by Allah or his messenger.
Rocky Marciano was a heavyweight boxer in the 1950s. He served in WWII and boxed for the Army IN ADDITION to his regular Army job.
While many folks have changed their views on Ali and his draft dodging over the years I am not one of them. He turned his back on the nation and ignored the law.
For me that act defines him more than anything else he did.
Never surrender, never submit.