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Muhammad Ali
Excerpts of the NPR Interview

listen Hear excerpts of the NPR interview with Muhammad Ali.

Following is the transcript of exclusive NPR Online excerpts of Juan Williams' NPR interview with Muhammad Ali.

Juan Williams: You turn 60 years old.

Muhammad Ali: Shhhhh...

Williams: You don't want nobody to know.

Ali: Mmmm-hmmm.

Williams: (laughs) Next January. What's Muhammad Ali like at age 60?


Muhammad Ali
Photo: Tom Bullock, NPR

Ali: I'm the same person, a little more settled. A little more cool and calm. Not as fast as I was. That's about all.

Williams: I read where you said that you are fighting now for peace. Fighting against racism. Fighting for literacy. This means all the boxing was just a prelude to what you do now.

Ali: You not as dumb as you look.

Williams: Well thank you, Ali. (laughs)

Ali: No, boxing was a... I used as a method to get famous first. Then I could use the fame to promote certain causes.

Williams: And what do you think is the cause that you care most deeply about?

Ali: The Islamic cause. The Muslim religion. Getting more people to understand the real meaning of Islam. And that's what I want people to hear and understand

Williams: Now after the Sept. 11 attacks, I saw that you wrote in the Louisville Courier(-Journal) newspaper that the people who did this do not represent Islam. And those people were perpetrating evil.

Ali: Terrorists are not following Islam. Killing people and blowing up people and dropping bombs in places and all this is not the way to spread the word of Islam. So people realize now that all Muslims are not terrorists. And all Muslims didn't agree with what happened.

Williams: So did you feel personally upset?

Ali: Not upset but a little conscious that the people don't think that all Muslims are that way. And I'm just hoping that people understand that Islam is peace and not violence.

Williams: When you first came to Islam people saw you as divisive. Now people love you. People think that you represent the best of America. Are you surprised at the turn your life has taken?

Ali: I'm not really surprised because once people find out the truth, they think different. Like people thought we hated all white people. And we don't hate nobody. And people hear and don't really understand what's happening.

Ali: Today you have a deal with Coca-Cola for example. And I was thinking to myself it was only recently that you appeared on a Wheaties cereal box. Back in the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, people must have thought you were too controversial. But now, Madison Avenue, all the big advertisers are ready to embrace you. What happened?

Ali: Well, it just shows you the power of Allah. Allah's the Arabic term for God. Stand up for God, fight for God, work for God and do the right thing, and go the right way, things will end up in your corner.

"I'm blessed and thankful to God that I understand that he's trying me. This is a trial from God."

Muhammad Ali, discussing his fight with Parkinson's disease

Williams: You're still a fighter and now you're fighting Parkinson's. How do you understand what's happened to your body?

Ali: God tries you in certain, certain ways. Some people are rich and they believe in God. They loose the money, things get hard, they get weak and quit going to church. Quit serving God like they did. I won the title, became champion. Powerful and strong. Good looking. And then God tries you, take my health. Fixes it so it's hard to talk. Hard to walk. To see if you're still pretty, see if you still worship. I'm blessed and thankful to God that I understand that he's trying me. This is a trial from God.

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