Two days of ceremonies bidding a poignant
last farewell to Muhammad Ali got
underway Thursday in his American
hometown with thousands attending a
Muslim prayer service for the late boxing
Ali’s native city of Louisville in Kentucky is
hosting a series of interfaith tributes
bringing together VIPs and huge crowds of
ordinary fans in remembering one of the
indelible figures of the 20th century.
The three-time heavyweight world
champion, adored for both his remarkable
boxing career and his bold civil rights
activism, died last week at age 74 after a
decades-long battle with Parkinson’s
Thursday’s 30-minute prayer service was
held at Louisville’s Freedom Hall arena, the
site of Ali’s last fight in his hometown,
where he defeated Willi Besmanoff on
November 29, 1961.
Muslims in attendance were asked to
remain standing during the service, held in
presence of Ali’s casket.
“The service is a traditional Muslim
funeral,” said Imam Zaid Shakir, who
helped organize it.
“Muhammad Ali has a very, very special
significance for the Muslim community,” he
For millions of Muslims around the world,
Ali symbolized the true face of Islam,
promoting peace and tolerance.
On Friday morning, a funeral procession will
wind through the city of 600,000, passing
sites that were important to Ali: his
childhood home, the Ali Centre, the Centre
for African American Heritage – which
focuses on the lives of blacks in Kentucky –
and, of course, along Muhammad Ali
Boulevard before arriving at the cemetery
for a private burial.
Actor Will Smith – who earned an Oscar
nomination for his portrayal of Ali on the
silver screen – and former heavyweight
champion Lennox Lewis will be among the
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