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Clay Announces Black Muslim Membership

Feb. 27, 1964 - “All I want is peace — peace for myself and peace for the world,” the newly-crowned heavyweight champ, Cassius Clay, said today in disclosing that he had become a member of the Black Muslims. “My religion is Islam,” the 22-year-old fighter told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I believe Allah is God. I think this is the true way to save the world, which is on fire with hate.” He said he had made an extended study of the religion over a period of months and had become convinced it is “the truth and the light.”

Clay was relaxing at his temporary quarters in Miami Beach when he was told that the leader of the separatist sect, Elijah Muhammad, had told a meeting in Chicago that the new ring champion was a disciple. “That is true, and I am proud of it,” Clay said. “But what is all the commotion about? Nobody asks other people about their religion. But now I am the king, so it seems the world is all shook up about what I believe. You call it Black Muslims, I don’t. This is a name that has been given to us by the press. The real name is Islam. That means peace. Yet people brand us a hate group. They say we want to take over the country. They say we’re Communists. That is not true. Followers of Allah are the sweetest people in the world, and there are 750 million of them — in Africa, Asia, all over the world. They don’t carry knives; they don’t tote weapons. They pray five times a day. The women wear dresses that come all the way to the floor, and they don’t commit adultery. The men don’t marry white women. All they want to do is live in peace with the world. They don’t hate anybody. They don’t want to stir up any kind of trouble. All the meetings are held in secret, without any fuss or hate-mongering.”

Clay said his religion had brought him “inner peace” and that this was responsible for his sensational upset over Sonny Liston, a 7-1 favorite. “God was with me. I couldn’t have done it without God,” he said.

The new champ said he was disturbed to find the Islam group had drawn the fire of integrationist forces among the Negro people. “We believe that forced and token integration is but a temporary and not an everlasting solution to the Negro problem,” he said. “It is merely a pacifier. We don’t think one people should force its culture upon another. I get telephone calls every day. They want me to carry signs. They want me to picket. They tell me it would be a wonderful thing if I married a white woman because this would be good for brotherhood. I just want to be happy with my own kind.”


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