Muhammad Ali Speech
Ali declared that he would refuse to serve in the army and publicly considered himself a conscientious objector. Ali stated:
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam?”
At the trial on June 20, 1967, after only 21 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Ali guilty.
First of all. I would like to thank the student governing body for inviting me here to speak at this beautiful and worthy occasion tonight. I would also like to congratulate them on the great splendid stand to stop the bloody war that’s now going on in Vietnam. And as a Muslim minister, my own outlook on war and violence is well known by now.
I would like to say that the number one greeting in my faith is peace and that is “As-salāmu ʽalaykum”, which means “May peace be unto you”.
There have been many questions put to me why I refuse to be inducted in to the United States Army. Especially as some have pointed out, many have pointed out. Not taking the step I will lose so much. And I would like to say to those of the press and those of the people who think I lost so much by not taking the step. I would like to say I did not lose a thing up until this very moment. I haven’t lost one thing. I have gained a lot.
Number one, I have gained a peace of mind. I have gained a peace of heart.
I now know that I am content with the all mighty God himself whose proper name is Allah. I have also gained the respect of everyone here today. I have not only gained the respect of everyone here but worldwide. I have gained respect from people all over the world, and by taking the step I may have satisfied a few people who are pushing the war.
Even if the wealth of America was given to me for taking the step, the wealth of America, the friendship of all the people who support the war, this will still be nothing if I am not content internally, and if I am not in court with the will of all mighty Allah.
As you read the newspapers and the press now you see that I am now in court. I am in court seeking justice under the laws of the land. In this country the United States of America, ministers are exempt from the armed services. And if they choose I am a Muslim minister and a teacher of the religion Islam. It has been said that I have two alternatives: either go to jail or go to the army.
But I would like to say that there is another alternative. And that alternative is justice, and if justice prevails I will neither go to the army nor will I go to jail. They say that actually every time I enter the ring in a way I am going to war. They say to me dearly: “You are a prize fighter, what’s the difference?”
And I would like to say to those critics of the press and to the others. There’s one hell of a lot of difference in fighting in the ring and going to war in Vietnam.
Boxing is nothing like going to war with machine guns, bazookas, hand grenades, and bomber airplanes.
My intention is to box, to win a clean fight. But in war the intention is to kill, and continue killing innocent people.
That’s what the vision is in war. I would like to hear this from you. And I want the world and the cameras to hear it: Who’s the heavyweight champion of the world?
And I am very pleased and thankful for being here, and that’s all I would like to say.
Thank you very much.”