Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Trials of Muhammad Ali (movie review)

I grabbed this without a moment's hesitation when sharing Movie Madness with some visiting Brazilians.  The documentaries are right inside the door and something on Muhammad Ali was just what the doctor ordered:  illuminating, inspiring, brimming with interesting characters and history.

Revisiting the surge of Islam as a religion of peace and non-violence, but with a strongly defiant rhetoric, under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan, Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali, provides new perspective in 2014, over a decade after 911 and the new face of Islamophobia.

I'm not suggesting the history of Islam has been non-violent (on the contrary), nor arguing the moral superiority of any particular religion in the abstract.

Clearly the Nation of Islam in 1960s North America, during the time of the civil rights movement and the parallel rise of the Reverend Martin Luther King, a Christian minister, was all about countering some hundreds of years of oppression, by instilling both self-discipline and self-pride in its citizens.

The idea that an Islamic spin better fit the urbane / urbanized rebellious while the civil rights movement appeared both more rural and integrationist was not a contrast I'd considered.

Christianity had proved itself unable to head off a Civil War, the Bible and its interpretations being used by pro-slavery churches and abolitionists alike.  No wonder a period of intense disillusionment followed, among a people that had been given little choice in religion by their slave masters.

I hadn't realized how the Supreme Court had reversed itself, using some logic relating to Jehovah's Witnesses and whether one's objection to war was across the board or pick and choose.

A heavy-weight fighter cuts a violent aspect in demeanor and profession, but Jehovah's Witnesses were saying they'd fight if it were clearly a Lamb's War (Quaker jargon) i.e. if they felt moved by the Spirit, commanded by God.  That's not quite the same thing as "picking and choosing" one's wars. 

Quakers are less about objecting to wars as to wars using outward weapons, which is about the only kind of war comprehensible to those doomed to think literally about everything.

Muhammad Ali is a quick study both inside and outside of the boxing ring.

Father Divine is rarely analyzed in the same scope as the above leaders, yet his hotels were integrated and his message religious, if not strictly Christian.