Source: The Courier Journal
On April 21, 2004 The Courier Journal reported, "Growing up in Iran in the 1970s, Omid Safi knew of only one Muslim outside of his native country: Muhammad Ali. Safi, along with other Muslim scholars from Asia and the United States, met the former heavyweight boxing champion in person yesterday in Ali's native Louisville. Ali, they said, set a lasting example. 'You became famous because of boxing, but you became our role model because you are a great human being,' Safi said at a videotaped roundtable discussion aimed at fighting religious stereotypes. The forum was sponsored by the Muhammad Ali Center at a University of Louisville television studio. Safi, now living in the United States and an advocate for a 'progressive Islam' that fosters democracy and women's rights — said Ali's refusal to fight in the Vietnam War inspired him. Ali set a powerful 'Muslim example' by 'standing up to political power when it is unjust,' Safi said. Safi's was just one of several tributes paid to Ali by visiting Muslims during the forum, which focused on ways to prevent religious stereotyping and violence. And Ali himself made a plea for tolerance. 'Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams — they all are unique, but they all contain water,' just as religions 'all contain truth,' Ali wrote in a statement, which was read at the discussion by Michael Fox, president of the Ali Center. Participants in the forum included American Muslims and Christians as well as visiting scholars from Asia."