Refused speech, Erdogan avoids Muhammad Ali funeral

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to attend the funeral of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in the US amid reports that he was removed from the list of those allowed to address the service.

Without elaborating, his office notified that Erdogan would be cutting short the US visit he had made to attend the rituals honoring Ali, thus not being able to participate in the Friday farewell ceremony in Louisville, Kentucky.

This is while the Turkish leader had joined earlier funeral prayers for the late legend on Thursday and had been among the first to communicate his condolences over his passing. During the event, he called Ali a champion of Muslim rights.

“Muhammad Ali drew our admiration because despite all obstacles he continued to walk on the path he knew to be right, after converting to Islam at age 22, in a country like the United States,” he also said at a fast-breaking event held in Ali’s memory.

In the lead-up to the funeral service, Ali family’s spokesman Bob Gunnell had said that two unnamed speakers had been added to the program, meaning that foreign guests Erdogan and King Abdullah II of Jordan would no longer be able to deliver a speech, The Washington Post reported.

Gunnel did not specify the reason for the family’s opting to eliminate the personalities off the list.

The funeral’s organizers had also refused Erdogan’s requests to lay a piece of cloth from the Kaaba on Ali’s coffin at the ceremony and that a top Turkish cleric read from the Holy Qur’an during the ceremony.

Turkish media reports speculate that these had vexed the Turkish leader.

Other reports, meanwhile, said Erdogan’s decision to skip the funeral came after Ali’s family chose to invite US-based Turkish opposition cleric and Erdogan’s arch-foe, Fethullah Gulen to the event.

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