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Posts Tagged ‘Muhammad Ali

Through The Eyes of the World: Maya Angelou from Muhammad Ali

“I used to listen to Joe Louis fight on the radio when I was young. It was so important to hear how some black mother’s and father’s son was the champion of the world…

To hear Muhammad Ali on the radio and on television, that was just amazing.

Sometimes he was called “the mouth“, but he was so wonderful to look at and great to listen to.

His poetry always made me laugh…He was a man who made an immediate impact on my life, because he was at once so big and so gentle.

He was very strong, but he also was very gentle and had a wonderful sense of humour.
You have to be intelligent to have a sense of humour, so I knew then Muhammad Ali – as powerful as he was – also had a sense of humour.

I loved that. I never trust people who don’t laugh, and I trusted him immediately.
When I met him back in Ghana, he was very young – it was 40 years ago!

We had a good talk, and it wasn’t competitive, combative conversation. I keep the memory of that meal very precious to me. I’ve not even written about it.”
Maya Angelou from Muhammad Ali: Through The Eyes of the World.
We honor the friendship Maya Angelou and Muhammad Ali had and our hearts and prayers go out to the family and the world who is experiencing this indescribable loss.

We are grateful for the full and impactful life lived of the great Muhammad Ali.
The Angelou Johnson Family.

See More

Maya Angelou's photo.

12 years ago I met the great Mohammad Ali in his house! He kept joking with me by pulling my hair from behind while we were taking the photo 🙂

I remember that day well. I was very emotional seeing and learning how a great fighter can fight a bad disease like Parkinson’s.

That day I told my professor Dr. Jerry Peters that I will go to Medical school and join people in their daily fights.

Sometimes I miss my clinical days in which I was involved in fighting diseases and pain.

I am currently fighting battles that do not have rules nor science in them but I know that these battles are ultimately preventing or reliving people’s pain and suffering!
RIP ‪#‎MohammadAli‬ I promise that I will keep fighting!

Sami Hourani's photo.
 Obama on Muhammad Ali passing away
The White House's photo.

The White House

“Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d ‘handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.’

But what made The Champ the greatest—what truly separated him from everyone else—is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing.

Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.

In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him—the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston.

I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was—still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.

‘I am America,’ he once declared. ‘I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me—black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.’

That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age—not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right.

A man who fought for us.

He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t.

His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing.

It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved.

But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes—maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves.

Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world.

We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest.

We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.

Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it.

We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.” —President Obama

Annia Ciezadlo shared a photo
Muhammad Ali is seen here praying at a mosque in Beirut, Lebanon with Jaber and Richard Herschfield in this February 17, 1985 file photo. (UPI/File)
Dr. Jana added a new photo.
Dr. Jana's photo.
Info-graphic On Suicide Bombings in Lebanon. And Frontline Documentary in Syria
A link from Andrew Bossone on FB
On this edition of Media on the MarginsMalihe Razazan speaks with Syrian-born Frontline correspondent Muhammad Ali about his most recent reporting trip from the town of al-Atārib near Aleppo in northern Syria, which is the subject of his Frontline documentary, “Syria’s Second Front.”
Since the start of the uprising in 2011, Ali, a 32-year-old Damascus native, has been to Syira on assignment 13 times.
He called his latest trip “a suicide mission.” According to an annual report from the Committee to Protect JournalistsSyria remained the most deadly place for journalists on the job in 2013.
The Associated Press reports that 30 journalists have been kidnapped or gone missing since April of last year.
Media on the Margins” is a regular Jadaliyya program dedicated to the stories behind the news, on the fault-lines of journalism and the fringes of public discourse.
In each episode, Malihe Razazan, the winner of the Society for Professional Journalists’ 2012 Community Journalism Award, speaks to reporters, editors, citizen journalists, and photographers to unpack their craft, interrogate their work, and uncover how the news comes to represent the world.
The show shines a spotlight on stories missed, ignored, and omitted as well as the people who tell them. “Media on the Margins” is where “journalism grapples with journalism.” Click to watch the documentary in its entirety on PBS. 

Syrian Natives: War’s Second Front?

Journalist Muhammad Ali was seriously injured by government shelling on a reporting trip to Syria one year ago.

That didn’t stop him from going back.

 posted this Feb. 4, 2014

A Syrian Native Reports From Inside the War’s Second Front

In Syria’s Second Front, premiering Feb. 11 on FRONTLINE (check local PBS listings), Ali — a Syrian native — sneaks back across the border to deliver an exclusive report from his home country.

He’s one of only a few reporters to make it in and out of Syria in recent months.

In Syria’s Second Front, he shares what he saw firsthand: Rebel forces are no longer simply fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, they’re also fighting a “war within a war” against a notoriously brutal Islamist group known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

Ali — who helped to report FRONTLINE’s previous Syria documentaries, but is an on-camera correspondent for the first time in Syria’s Second Front — shares his story below.

Where in Syria did you grow up? Why did you decide to start covering the war?

I lived in Damascus for most of my life — from when I was born, up through university.

I began working as a professional journalist there in 2005, initially focusing on the economy and the stock market. But I wrote about politics as well.

And under a dictatorship, journalists become the enemy. I left Syria in 2010 and covered the 2011 uprising for the BBC and others from Beirut and then Lebanon.

The only way to solve this dilemma in Syria is to reveal what’s really happening. That’s the job of the journalist.”

I’ve been abducted by an armed group aligned with Hezbollah, and injured in a tank attack by regime forces. But I’m covering the war because the only way to solve this dilemma in Syria is to reveal what’s really happening. That’s the job of the journalist.

Is that why you keep returning to the war zone, despite the risks, and despite being injured?

It’s risky, for sure. When you walk the city and try to film, you don’t know when the artillery will start shelling. That’s happened many times in front of me.

By your work, by reporting the story, you can shed a light and make everything white and clear. So when you go in again, you aren’t afraid — instead, you are even more encouraged to go on.

“Ultimately, getting injured or kidnapped or abducted or sometimes tortured — that just pushes you to continue on, more than ever, because you want to defy the darkness in this world.”

You crossed into Syria to live and film with the rebels as they tried to unify and take back an ISIS-controlled town. What was it like to be a journalist in that situation?

I had to be very secretive with my camera near the ISIS-held town of Al-Atareb. I couldn’t get many wide, pan shots — because if the ISIS fighters saw me with a camera standing on the top of some building, they would shoot me!

Ordinary civilians were also suspicious of Western media.

For example, when I was staying with the rebels, a car bomb went off nearby at about 2 a.m. while we were sleeping. The rebels told me, “It’s OK to come outside with us and see what has happened — but don’t bring your camera. People will be very angry to see you with that.”

Even though I grew up in Syria, they’d know from my look and my accent that I wasn’t a local.

And there would be anger toward me: Many of the Syrian people I spoke with feel that the West has forgotten the war. When they heard in January that the United Nations had stopped counting the death toll, they told me that they felt betrayed. They said they feel that the world has stopped talking about the casualties, the air strikes, and the fact that people are suffering.

What has surprised you the most in covering this war?

The level of the brutality.

There are people in competition to rule the country, but it’s as if there’s also a competition for who can be the most brutal — how much you can show you are not human. From the regime sending out aircrafts to shell towns full of civilians, to ISIS executing people in cold blood, it’s shocking.

It was also surprising and powerful, in a good way, to see people who are resisting and believing in life. I’ve seen many people lose their friends and families completely. Their houses have been destroyed, and they’ve been forced to leave. But they still believe in rebuilding their country one day.

FRONTLINE’s Syria’s Second Front premieres Tuesday, February 11, 2014 on PBS (check local listings) and online.

How current “modern” Islam radicalized into negative and oppressive precepts?

I’ll discuss three radical trends: The Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, the Wahhabi Islam brand in the Arabic Peninsula, and the Ben Laden (Al Qaeda) for international jihadists.

1. In 1929, Egypt was relatively the most modern State in the Arab World. The Al Azhar religious university was guided by an enlightened sheikh Abdel Razeq.  Author Taha Hussein had published a very controversial book on poetry during Jahiliya period (before Islam in the Arabic Peninsula), and the Egyptian court refused to ban it.

During that period, the monarchs Fouad and Farouk and their entourage went overboard emulating the western life-style and flaunting blatantly their unacceptable behaviors to the little people.

Hassan al Banna (founder of the Brotherhood in 1929) jumped at the occasion of life-styles that obfuscated the common people and blamed the modern interpretation of Islamic teachings as a cover to the to the ill-behavior of the ruling classes.

Consequently, a return to Chariaa and fundamental “bedouin” Islam: tribal ancient customs and rules were prescribed in order to overcome the current degenerate conditions that will weaken the Moslem spirit for Jihad against the infidels…

The presence of colonial Britain in Egypt was mainly opportunistic catalysts for every time the British governor harshly confronted street demonstrations and uprisings…

Colonial western life-style was added as a practical dimension to the reactions of the Brotherhood members. The Brotherhood was implicitly regarded anti-colonial and, as a logical result, a de facto national movement…

2. The Wahhabi brand of Islam.  This sect was initiated by Abd el Wahhab in the Najd region in the Arabic peninsula in the early 19th century, during the Ottoman Empire. This Hanafi sect was quickly supported by the emirs in Najd, particularly the Saud tribe, and is currently classified as the fourth admitted sect in Sunni Islam.

Mainly, the Wahhabi movement was opposed to the Ottoman Empire, which didn’t really administered directly the Arabic Peninsula, and was funded and supported with arms by the British Empire, which had plans to occupy strategic ports in Aden (Yemen) and the Arabic/Persian Gulf.

Mind you that Islam of the Ottoman Empire was pretty loose and accommodating since the foundation of the Empire, and the Chariaa was observed with wide latitude  All that the Sultan wanted was the title of Calif of all the Moslems.

It happened that in the early 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was wide open to western culture and life-style and some Constitutional reforms were underway, called “Tanzimat” (Regulations)

The British got wary of reforms starting in the Ottoman Empire, and worked on minorities to destabilize the already shaky and declining Ottoman Empire. And how best to rally the tribes around in the peninsula if not by adopting opposite theological and radical religious positions against the Calif?

And quick to a drastic shift to the “fundamentals” of Islam, as the Protestants acted against the Catholic Church in the 15th century. What are these fundamentals? Abolishing and destroying all icons, pictures of Imams and Holy men, prohibiting pilgrimage to Imam sites wide dispersed in all Islamic world, as substitute to the expensive pilgrimage to Mecca…And back to Bedouin customs, traditions, setting more constraints on women…: The modus operandi to rooting the movement within the dominant tribes.

The Ottoman Sultan kept harassing his Viceroy in Egypt, Muhammad Ali, to send an expeditionary military force to wipe out the spreading of the Wahhabi uprising.  Finally, Ali dispatched his young 19-year old second son who entered Mecca and liberated it from the Wahhabis after many difficulties. The elder son Ibrahim Pasha carried out an extensive campaign for years and managed to enter and destroy the main City-State of the Wahhabi inside the deep desert.

And for two decades, the Wahhabi movement subsided, until the Egyptian forces had to return home. The British resumed their funding and support for the Wahhabi movement and eventually conquered all of the Peninsula in 1923.

Since Sadat of Egypt acceded to power in 1970, the Saudi Arabia absolute monarchy had been building mosques all over Egypt and hiring clerics of Wahhabi  inclination, re-publishing their own Coran and distributing it for free…

3. The Ben Laden phenomena of international jihadist movement. Ben laden kept swinging between the Moslem Brotherhood and the Wahhabi sect, driven by the political opportunities opened to him and which captured his attention. Ben laden had no fundamental theological doctrine or dogma and with no definite long-term purpose for his movement.

In the early 1980, he was a CIA agent and was dispatched by Saudi Arabia to usurp the nascent movement of Arab Jihadist flocking to the city of Peshawar (Pakistan) to be trained and sent to fight the Soviet communists in Afghanistan. The CIA wanted to be in control of the “resistance movement” against the Soviet…

After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, no Arabic State wanted these fighters to return home. These jihadists were relocated to created Hot Spots around the world. The CIA took charge of that bounty of cheap recruits who are zealot and already trained and dispatched them to “containment regions” under the Soviet dominion…It was still the Cold War era.

To make a long story short, (extensively developed in a previous article) the US became an ideal target for the Al Qaeda movement which resulted in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the reactions in conducting frequent drone attacks killing potential Al Qaeda “leaders”…

Note 1: The US has got to understand that the Arab peoples feel that an entire century was wasted, for nothing, and worse than going back to point one in 1918, where the Arab people hoped and demanded independence, and the colonial mandated powers replaced the Ottoman and created the Zionist state of Israel. More on that in a follow-up article.

Note 2: How to win war on terrorism

Turkey and Iran: Same and Different (April 25, 2009)


Brief history:  Throughout antiquity till our modern days three main empires dominated the landscape of the Middle East. Turkey, Iran, and Egypt were vast empires and advanced urbanely and economically before the advent of Islam. Turkey and Iran managed to enjoy a semi-continuous existence of empires but Egypt had large vacuums of many centuries in between empires since the Pharaohs. Egypt enjoyed special status during the Greek, Roman, Arab, and Ottoman empires and was a world apart as wheat basket and advanced civilization. Turkey and Iran could benefit from stable “national” entities but Egypt experienced foreign leaders as kings or sultans and relied on foreign officers to lead its armies, the latest dynasty was from Albania with Muhammad Ali. 

The three empires are currently mostly Moslems and they were in general lenient with the minority religious sects.  The three empires have vast lands, rich in water, and have currently about the same number of population of about 70 millions and increasing at high rates. The Iranian empires relied on the Afghanistanis and the central Asian tribes for their armies.  As the frequent Mogul raids descended on Persia its armies went on the defensive. The Turkish and Ottoman empires relied on the Caucasus tribes from current Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia States, and also from Albania and Romania.  As Russia started to expand southward and occupied many of these regions then Turkey curtailed most of its vast military campaigns and went on the defensive.  The Caucasus triangle of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia is still a hot spot for domination among Russia, Turkey, and to a lesser extent Iran, especially with the oil and gas pipelines that pass through them.  My post “Cursed Cities: Karss” would shed detailed historical accounts on that tragic triangle.


Modern Status:


In around 1920’s two military dictators ruled over Iran and Turkey.  Rida “shah” in Iran and “Ataturk” in Turkey were attempting to modernize their infrastructure and civil administrations by emulating the European examples.  Ataturk went as far as changing the Turkish alphabet to Latin.  Both dictators confronted the religious clerics for establishing secular States with unequal long term successes.  Iran has reverted to religious oligarchy after Khomeini came to power.

While Iran was historically more clement with its minorities it appears that Turkey is practically taking steps to outpacing Iran in that advantage; for example, Turkey is translating the Koran into the ethnic languages such as Kurdish.  Women in Turkey are prominent in businesses such as Goler Sabanji; 9% of women are represented in the Parliament.  In Iran, Shireen Abadi is Nobel laureate for defending women’s rights; Iranian women represent only 3% in the Parliament though they represent 65% in universities.

In the 70’s Iran was flush with oil revenue while Turkey was struggling to establish an industrial infrastructure. It appears that in the long term oil is definitely a curse for emerging nations because wealth is not invested on the human potentials and stable modern political structure.

In 2008, foreign investment in Turkey was 14 billions dollars and increasing while it amounted to just one billion in Iran.  Turkey has expanded its representation in Africa by opening 12 new Embassies and 20 new consulates. Nisreen Ozaimy is from Iran by origin and fled to Turkey; when her family lived in Turkey it was impressed by the confidence that the Turks valued their various ethnic nationalities and they implicit feeling that Turkey is in fact a bridge between East and West.  The Turks managed to blend harmoniously the secular and religious inclinations.




March 2023

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