Rabbi Michael Lerner completely went in on the mistreatment of Muslims in America and around the world while speaking on Friday at the funeral service for Muhammad Ali.

“Sends your blessings to Muhammad Ali and send your blessings to those who mourn for him and the millions around the planet,” he began.

Thousands of friends, family, celebrities, and political figures attended Ali’s traditional Muslim memorial service in Louisville, Kentucky, which spanned more than two days. Ali died last week at 74 from complications related to his Parkinson’s disease.

“Muhammad Ali had the courage to say no to Farrakhan and leave the anti-Semitism and homophobia of that part of Islam, and eventually to draw sustenance from the Sufi approach to Islam – the ultimate in a love-oriented religion,” Lerner said, according to a transcript of the eulogy provided to Israeli news outlet Haaretz in advance of the funeral.

Louis Farrakhan Sr. is the leader of the religious group the Nation of Islam, with which Ali became affiliated in the 1960s.

“If Muhammad Ali were here today, I’m sure his message would be this: Don’t waste your time on this planet fighting the small battles – put your life energies and money into fundamental systemic transformation,” said Lerner, who is also a political activist and editor of the Jewish magazine Tikkun.

Lerner said that what made Ali a hero was his courage to stand up to the “immoral” war in Vietnam by proclaiming himself a conscientious objector. Lerner was an anti-war activist along with Ali, who refused to serve in the US army and was immediately stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967.

“Knowing he would lose his title, knowing he would face the racism of American society that would be heaped upon him for saying no to the crazy war in Vietnam,” Ali said no to the war, Lerner said.

“He spoke truth to power – we must speak truth to power,” he added.


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