After border patrol agents detained Muhammad Ali’s ex-wife and his son at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in February, the family members of the famous Muslim boxer have not stayed quiet.
The pair have appeared on major news broadcasts, on dozens of news sites and even before a House Subcommittee on Border Security to advocate for an anti-profiling bill. On Tuesday, the boxing heavyweight champ’s second wife, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, told Florida International University students about her plan to fight the hatred she believes is on the rise in America.
She loves the USA, she told the crowd of about 40, but when she was held at the airport, separated from her son and repeatedly questioned about her faith, she was shaken.
“How can I be uncomfortable in my own country, ‘The United States of great America,’” she said.
Weeks after the incident, she told her lawyer, former federal prosecutor Chris Mancini, whom she calls a “white boy you don’t wanna mess with.” Mancini raised the alarm, sending the Ali family on their media rounds, including speaking before the House of Representatives. On the flight home to South Florida, Camacho-Ali said her son, Muhammad Ali Jr., was detained again.
“I want all people, all races not to be interrogated when they come to this country. They have a right,” Camacho-Ali said. “I’m speaking up. And not just for Muslims.”
She and her son, one of her four children with the boxer, started a group called Step Into The Ring. Camacho-Ali said she envisions an activist organization that gathers donations and brings celebrities and politicians together to advocate for religious freedom. The main image on the website is a set of bright red boxing gloves below text that proclaims, “Ali vs. Trump” and “religious freedom.”
Born to Muslim parents, Camacho-Ali spoke about the bigotry she endured in the name of her faith. She pointed to President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban,” as a modern iteration of her grade school bullying. When Trump was campaigning for the presidency, he called for a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’’ after terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
As president, he has signed two executive orders temporarily prohibiting citizens from Muslim-majority countries — first, seven countries, then six in the revised ban— from entering the United States. Both of those orders have been put on hold after a federal appeals court and federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland either blocked them or suspended a portion of the ban.
“Our true enemies are not Muslims,” she said. “They are terrorists who commit unspeakable acts in the name of Islam.”
She talked about how Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine black people in a South Carolina church, was a Christian.
“There are millions of Muslim families with good character that love this country and are the greatest of citizens,” Camacho-Ali said.
And although she threw barbs at the president during her speech, Camacho-Ali told students that she’d like to give Trump a little Quran to carry around in his pocket.
“I’m trying to educate Mr. Trump,” she said. “I’m not here to persecute him. I’m here to educate him so he can learn a little about us.”