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Monday, Dec. 11
The Indiana Daily Student


'The Greatest' comes to Bloomington

One of 'The Greatest,' most flamboyant, outspoken athletes of the 20th century was humbled this past weekend by a man half his size. \nMuhammad Ali visited Bloomington to join His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama in the opening ceremonies of The Chamtse Ling, an interdenominational temple built by the Tibetan Cultural Center.\nJoined by daughter Hana, this was the first meeting between Ali, a Muslim, and His Holiness, a Budhist. \n"He was humbled to meet the Dalai Lama," Hana said. \nShe explained how her father is an advocate of peace and a supporter of the Dalai Lama's beliefs in peace -- a conviction he began to show in 1966, when he declared himself ineligible for the military draft based on his Islamic principles. His decision caused a major backlash against Ali across the nation as well as in the boxing world. \nAli, "a very spiritual man," according to Hana, was excited for the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama. The meeting took place at the conclusion of the ceremonies on Sunday.\nBecause of his illness, Ali did not speak to the thousands of people who packed the Tibetan Cultural Center.\nThe 61-year-old, who displayed visible signs of his battle with Parkison's disease, received a standing ovation when he was introduced during the morning portion of the ceremony.\nAli's fame has spread across oceans and mountains to countries all over the globe. It even spread to Tibet, and the Dalai Lama expressed his enjoyment in meeting 'The Greatest.' \n"It has been a great pleasure for me to see Muhammad Ali in person," said His Holiness. "I have seen his boxing matches. In my own case, if I were to step into the ring, I would be knocked down with the first punch."\nThe two walked hand-in-hand onto the stage in the beginning of the day, a sign that could be read as two men of two very different religions forming a connection. But for the three-time defending heavy weight champion and the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, their lives have been dedicated to their respective religions.\n"My father is a firm believer in Islam," Hana said. "He believes we are good people inside. Many people thought (he and the Dalai Lama) would clash because of their religious beliefs."\nThe two did not clash, as they were warmly receptive to each other all day long with hugs and numerous gifts.\nAli's fighting days did not seem too far behind him during the afternoon ceremony. When introduced by two Bloomington high school students, Ali did his signature shadow boxing, which garnered applause from the audience.\nDespite participating in such a violent sport, Ali's message about faith and religion is peaceful.\n"Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams all have different names, but they all contain water," Hana Ali said on behalf of her father. "So, too, different religions all contain truth."\nHana spoke for Ali because his disease limits his speaking abilities said close friend and President of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville Michael J. Fox.\nHana, the seventh of nine children, joined her father in the trip to Bloomington. She has also co-authored a book titled More Than a Hero: Muhammad Ali's Life Lessons Presented Through His Daugther's Eyes. It was a book of poetry that Hana wrote about her him. She recently moved to Michigan to be closer to Ali so they can work on a second book about spirituality. \nAli's fans were not far behind his spiritual message Sunday. At one point, fans towards the back of the tent could be heard starting the chant, "Ali, Ali."\n"He's a living legend," Hana said.\nGrowing up with him as her father and now having sister Laila as a top professional women's boxer, Hana sometimes falls below the spotlight, but that does not bother her.\n"We were raised humbled," she said. "We were taught that fame isn't everything. There are a lot of famous people, and you can't get caught up with all the fame. Fame isn't everything."\nIn a time when professional athletes are making headlines for a wide variety of reasons, Hana considers her father a hero. \nAli has won numerous athletic honors, such as being named the Best Athlete of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated, but he was also named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2000, for his work in the mission of the United Nations -- helping people worldwide.\n"You don't see many heroes," Hana said. "But my father is a hero."\n-- The Associated Press contributed to this story. Contact Sports Editor Josh Weinfuss at

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