CHICAGO (AP) As a young boxer, Muhammad Ali searched for a faith to guide him as he confronted the indignities of racial discrimination. What he found was the Nation of Islam, the controversial black Muslims who preached a doctrine of strict separation of the races and described white people as devils.
The move to a group feared by whites and rejected by many blacks stunned fans who were dazzled by the showmanship, quick wit, and fast fists of the boxer who had won an Olympic gold medal as Cassius Clay. But Ali, who adopted a Muslim name, didn't waver amid withering criticism. He resisted calls to join black civil rights activists, declaring that forced integration wouldn't work.
Ali parted ways with the Nation after about a decade, embracing mainstream Islam, which teaches that believers should embrace all races and ethnicities. He remained a devout Muslim until his death last week at age 74. As one of the most famous Muslims in the world, he traveled widely as a goodwill ambassador, spreading the message of Islam as a religion of peace.