Community Cinema Event: The Trials of Muhammad Ali

Community Cinema screening event– featuring The Trials of Muhammad Ali and guest speaker Imam Ali Siddiqui. Soka University had a great turn out for the screening, and wonderful student/ panelist discussion engagement post-screening.


Fulfilling Community Needs

The target audience of The Trials of Muhammad Ali was for the general student body, community members, and some Muslim community leaders taht attended the event. We had students from all different backgrounds attend, as well as a few faculty and older community members.

The Power of Why

We wanted to facilitate a discussion specifically in regards to Ali’s Muslim/ Nation of Islam affiliation and how that affected his life. We selected Imam Ali Siddiqui– a well established poet, writer, community leader and a member of the Muslim Community Center in Orange County, California. We knew Siddiqui would provide great discussion points in reference to Ali’s religious associations, struggles, and sucesses. Siddiqui had actually met Ali on several different occassions, and this provided for great post-screening discussion.

Impact & Action

The film enlightened the community on the general life history of Muhammad Ali– as although many students (people of a younger generation) know of Ali as the greatest boxer to ever live, it was clear that many audience members knew little to nothing about Ali’s undertaking of the Muslim religion, nor his battle with the US Government to evade the Draft and Vietnam War. Our community was provided with a new light of Ali, perhaps a new lens. The audience gained a better understanding of what a prolific political figure and speaker Ali was, as well.

Our guest panelist Imam Siddiqui provided great post-screening thoughts for discussion. He gave the audience a general background of Muslim beliefs and told a little of his time spent with Muhammad Ali. Siddiqui gave the audience a greeting of peace before speaking. Siddiqui spoke to the fact that Ali was used for his “talent, fame and money” but that such people that were exploiting Ali couldn’t deal with the fact that Ali was also “open-minded and open- mouthed–they couldn’t stand him”. Siddiqui went on to address the racial aspects of the film, saying that even today “we still face racism, it has simply become more sophisticated and subtle– but it still exists”. In regards to Ali’s affiliation with the Black Muslim movement, Siddiqui comments that “they wanted a way out from the white racism” and that “Elijah Muhammad did not know much of Islam”. This general talk of the Muslim community and actual Muslim beliefs was very enlightening to the general audience, as it appeared that most members of the audience had very little knowledge of the Muslim religion. During our Question and Answer segment, a professor and historian at SUA named James Spady asked about Siddiqui’s experience with teaching social justice within the Nation of Islam. Siddiqui’s response was that when he teaches social justice, he stresses on the concept of “Unity–the Unity of God” and how “God creates alll but does not hold our hands” and the “unity of all human beings–we are all equal and from the same creation or design– we are brothers and sisters– so we KNOW each other”. Siddiqui then talked about the rights and obligations of humanity to “fulfill the obligation of protecting the rights of others” and he then spoke to the “history of the treatment of blacks in the US” and how that “would not be tolerated in Islam”. This shed quite a bit of light on the film for the audience, and gave us a better, deeper understanding of Muhammad Ali’s understanding of being and affiliation to the Black Muslim movement.

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