Muhammad Ali has criticized Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering America.
Without naming Donald Trump, the 73-year-old boxing legend said that Muslims “have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda”.
The three-time world heavyweight champion is a cultural icon and one of the world’s most famous Muslims.
Donald Trump says he will never leave the race, despite widespread criticism.
The White House had said that the Republican presidential hopeful’s comments about Muslims “disqualified” him from running for the presidency.
Muhammad Ali’s statement was directed at “presidential candidates proposing to ban Muslim immigration to the United States”.
“They have alienated many from learning about Islam,” he said.
Muhammad Ali also strongly criticized violence committed by jihadists from ISIS.
“True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion,” he said.
“These misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”
Meanwhile, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg also expressed solidarity with Muslims.
In a Facebook post on December 9, Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others.
“As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights.”
In his statement, Muhammad Ali said there was there was “nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world”.
The former boxer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, after quitting the sport. Born by the name of Cassius Clay, he converted to Islam and changed his name in 1964.
Muhammad Ali’s statement comes after President Barack Obama’s TV address to the nation on December 6, in which he called on Americans to turn away from discrimination.
“Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes,” President Barack Obama said.
Donald Trump reacted to Barack Obama’s statement saying: “Obama said in his speech that Muslims are our sports heroes. What sport is he talking about, and who?”
The New York billionaire has met Muhammad Ali several times, and even received an award named after the former heavyweight champion in 2007.
Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims came after the deadly shootings in San Bernardino, California.
He called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.
A Muslim couple, believed to have been radicalized, killed 14 people at a health centre and left scores injured.
Donald Trump is the current frontrunner among the Republicans running for president, six weeks before the primary contests begin for each party to pick their nominee.