On Friday, Muhammad Ali’s middle-aged son, Muhammad Ali Jr. was detained by immigrant at a Fort Lauderdale airport after he and Ali’s first wife Khalilah Camacho-Ali returned from a trip to Jamaica.
Ali and his mother were questioned on their religious beliefs, and Ali was asked “where did you get your name?” Repeatedly, Ali was asked if he was Muslim, as if that should have been a factor in whether or not he was released from the airport back into the country in which he is a life-long citizen.
It’s hard to imagine that any customs agents might have heard the famous boxing name and immediately conjured up images of terrorists, but in Trump’s America, anything, it seems, is possible.
“During that time, according to Mancini, immigration officers asked him for his name, date of birth, birthplace, and religion. Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia, carries a U.S. passport, and has no criminal record. Mancini also said that neither he nor his mother have been detained before despite frequent international travel.
Mancini said that while he was detained, Ali Jr. was repeatedly asked questions such as, “Are you Muslim?” and “Where did you get your name from?” When Ali Jr. told them that he is Muslim, officers continued to question him about his religion and birthplace. He was eventually released.”
Muhammad Ali Senior faced a slew of racial and religious discrimination in his life, fighting against servitude to White America every inch of the way. Yet despite everything he accomplished, and how far America has come since he once proclaimed that he would not fight Vietnam on behalf of white Americans who were much more his enemy than the Viet Cong, the echoes of xenophobia and racism still haunt his family on a very real level.
Donald Trump’s now defunct travel ban was purported to target immigrants from seven specific Muslim-majority nations, not including Jamaica, but as Ali learned, the ambiguous executive order has given immigration officials everywhere license to question anyone who appears to be brown or Muslim, no matter their nationality.
Ali is considering taking legal action against the government or the airport for the unjust way that he and his mother were detained and interrogated.