Kashmir Mourns Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali’s Demise


SRINAGAR: Straddling the stage of worldwide sports like a colossus , iconic boxer, larger than life and the sport that was both his passion and symbol against racial discrimination and for racial pride, Mohammad Ali born Casssius Clay has breathed his last.  Mohammad Ali , the boxing heavy weight and many times world champion , left an indelible imprint on the world through his boxing prowess, principles and , yes, one could say defiance too. The great sportsman, by his conversion to Islam endeared himself to millions of Muslims worldwide- Kashmir being no exception.
Though oceans apart, and his era in the boxing arenas having ended decades ago, his fan-following only grew stronger by the day.  In trouble-torn Kashmir Saturday as news of legendary Muhammad Ali’s demise broke this morning, teary eyed people expressed their sadness at the great sportsperson’s demise in multiple fora.
Apart from the elderly and the middle-aged, who saw Ali as “The Greatest” boxer in 1960s and ‘70s, even the young generation was equally emotional.
His death took social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter by storm in the Valley, which is marred by rights abuse for over two decades, as tributes went viral with many sharing his pictures and quotable quotes, all gelled in traditional Muslim prayers: May his soul rest in Jannat Ul Firdous: Aamin!
From politicians and bureaucrats, to businessmen and professionals, almost all including students highlighted his achievements, his sporting prowess and principled defiance to iniquitous power structures.
Prominent businessmen, Sheikh Feroz, who heads the Alkhuddam Group of companies, called the boxer, “Muhammad Ali, the Daa’ee”.  Feroz invoked Ali’s words when latter offered Hajj pilgrimage in 1972: “I have had many nice moments in my life. But the feelings I had while standing on Mount Arafat (just outside Makkah, Saudi Arabia) on the day of the Hajj (the Muslim pilgrimage), was the most unique. I felt exalted by the indescribable spiritual atmosphere there as over one and a half million pilgrims invoked God to forgive them for their sins and bestow on them His choicest blessings.”
Another businessman Syed Niaz Ahmed Shah posted on his Facebook wall: “I am sure that Allah will tell him , “Well Done Muhammad Ali” because   he became not the symbol of boxing but symbol who fought the wrath of USA for  refusing the Vietnam War draft: he spread the word of Islam and became a legend.”
Bureaucrat Massarat Zia posted: “Iconic boxing great Muhammad Ali passes away. My prayers and thoughts with the legend’s family. May his  soul rest in peace.” “RIP”, was the instant response from former Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr GN Qasba.
Former bureaucrat Irfan Yasin said: “Muhammad Ali was great not just being a champ but being a man who had the balls to stand up to injustice, racial segregation, civil rights  and for causes he  thought were right. Our generation grew up looking upto Ali as someone who was not just a boxing champ but a crusader in pursuit of an equitable social order.”
Industrial consultant Sayeed Parvez Qaisar said: “In my hostel room for five years, I had just two posters. One was of Ali standing over fallen Liston. And there is a Poster of Ali in my office still. Saying: Don’t count days. Make days count.”
National Conference spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu said: “His father painted billboards and signs and Muhammad Ali inherited nothing beyond a will to survive, fight and rise. Rest in Peace Muhammad Ali #TheGreatest.”
Journalist Majid Hyderi posted: “From being born as globally celebrated boxer Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, the journey of this man, ‘The Greatest of All Time’, was perfect example of Allah’s Hidayat to mankind in the contemporary world.”
Observers said Kashmir’s love for Muhammad Ali was beyond “traditional fan-following for both the races have been victims of human rights abuse.”   “He(Muhammad Ali) happened to be inspirational champion of boxing arena and human rights, alike. And he stood by his stand to the end… Being a suppressed nation, the people of Kashmir had a natural relation with him and it only got discovered with his demise,” senior separatist leader Advocate Shahid Ul Islam told Kashmir Observer.
Ali, who once famously proclaimed himself “The Greatest” died Friday at a Phoenix-area hospital in the US, where he had spent the past few days being treated for respiratory complications.
Ali had suffered for three decades from Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological condition that slowly robbed him of both his legendary verbal grace and his physical dexterity.
Reports reveal even as his health declined, Ali did not shy from politics or controversy, releasing a statement in December criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda,” he said.
The remark bookended the life of a man who burst into the national consciousness in the early 1960s, when as a young heavyweight champion he converted to Islam and refused to serve in the Vietnam War, and became an emblem of strength, eloquence, conscience and courage.
Ali was an anti-establishment showman who transcended borders and barriers, race and religion. His fights against other men became spectacles, but he embodied much greater battles.
Recoiling from the sport’s tightly knit community of agents and promoters, Ali found guidance instead from the Nation of Islam, an American Muslim sect that advocated racial separation and rejected the pacifism of most civil rights activism. Inspired by Malcolm X, one of the group’s leaders, he converted in 1963. But he kept his new faith a secret until the crown was safely in hand.
That came the following year, when heavyweight champion Sonny Liston agreed to fight Ali. The challenger geared up for the bout with a litany of insults and rhymes, including the line, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” He beat the fearsome Liston in a sixth-round technical knockout before a stunned Miami Beach crowd. In the ring, Ali proclaimed: “I am the greatest! I am the greatest! I’m the king of the world!”
The king, alas, is no more! RIP Muhammad Ali!


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