In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, I have especially struggled with finding the right words to begin the piece of work. Some time around a week before the shooting, the world celebrated an unapologetically black, Muslim, sports figure that transcended the sport of boxing. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He was “The Greatest”– Muhammad Ali.
I can guess what some of you are probably thinking, “Why would a white, middle class, college student living in suburbia, who’s only seen the boxer fight on video care about what Muhammad Ali did in defending his religious freedom?”
I care because Ali was (in my mind) a Punk. I am a Punk. To me, Punk Rock music is about acknowledging that you’re different than the rest of the pack, taking pride in your individuality, and enjoying life among your other misfits while standing up against whatever injustice you make come across.
I care because I am nonreligious (attach to that any other label that you will) and all I’ve wanted in that regard is the freedom to be, the same freedom Ali fought for despite our different views and time periods.
I do not care enough to impose my views on other people. I just want my freedom to live how I want in this regard–at peace with myself and how I treat others and how I am treated by others in return for the time I am on Earth all while learning from past mistakes.
The U.S. government wanted Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. to do his part by serving his country in the war in Vietnam, help combat the forces of Communism, help keep this nation “free.”
ALI responded in part with: “I ain’t got no quarrel with no Vietcong…No Vietcong ever called me N***er…”
“You my enemy…You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won’t even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won’t even stand up for my rights here at home.”
I say this as a person who happens to have Cerebral Palsy: No Punk’s ever called me Cripple.
Ali was a Punk (said with love) and I’m happy just to have existed in the same lifetime as the man. He was a fighter in a way so much more important than combat sports can ever dream to be.
“I pledge my alliance to [ISIS leader] abu bakr al Baghdadi..may Allah accept me,” Pulse massacre gunman Omar Mateen wrote on social media from inside the nightclub before murdering 49 people.
“The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west (wrote the terrorist LIVING in America)…You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes..now taste the Islamic state vengeance.”
In the days since the shooting it was discovered that Mateen had been a patron of Pulse, considered a gay nightclub, for years according to USA today.
While I’m sure that all religions will have unkind things to say about both non-believers like myself and members of the LGBTQ community of which I am a heterosexual ally, maybe if Mateen had a strong support network he could have come out as who he really was.
For other evils committed in faiths please see: the Catholic church (child molestation) or The (Christian) Crusades.
Days after the shooting, I came across the video below from the Huffington Post:
If you practice a faith, great! I’d be happy to know you and welcome you in my life so long as we did not infringe upon each other’s rights or the rights of others. If you do not practice a faith, the same still applies.
People will be arguing over the existence of a supreme creator until there are no more people. If it’s that creator’s job to judge us for our perceived wrongdoings like being LGBTQ and thousands of other things, leave that job to your chosen deity.
Don’t focus on a potential afterlife to the point that you forget to live.
Love is love.
“What’s really hurting me, the name Islam is involved, and Muslim is involved and causing trouble and starting hate and violence,” Ali said.
“Islam is not a killer religion,” “Islam means peace,” “I couldn’t just sit home and watch people label Muslims as the reason for this problem.”
–Muhammad Ali after the 9/11 attack