Dear Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca with Muhammad Ali. A Muslim publisher and translator offers some words of advice to the convert
Wednesday 19 April 1995
No doubt your travelling companion Muhammad Ali has told you why you are going. The Hajj is about returning to the centre, focusing on unity, letting the centripetal force of God win out for a few days over the dissipating trends of the world. Caught up in its rites, milling with the millions around the Holy Kaaba like moths around a candle, we forget the four points of the compass and discover a liberating ability to connect with what lies beyond.
I hope this works for you. Like you, I was brought up in Christendom, and I found my first Hajj so unfamiliar and astonishing that I prayed hardly at all. Nowhere else, not even at Disney World, do so many people come together in one place. Standing, praying, eating, talking with 2 million other men and women from every race is a dazzling confirmation of one's own insignificance and of the global fellowship that is Islam.
The Saudis have promised you red carpet treatment. Not because they belittle the crime for which you were imprisoned - in fact, they routinely lop off people's heads for it. But because they recognise that Islam celebrates forgiveness, a virtue of which Mecca is the symbol. The Prophet was persecuted there by its idolatrous citizenry, who tortured and killed many of his disciples; yet when he returned as a conqueror 10 years on, he forgave those who had wronged him and rejected revenge.
The journalists who hound you know nothing of this, of course. Mecca is, for them, the Forbidden City, filled with weird Muslims and lamentably teetotal. That symbolises something else: the interior wealth of Islam is unknown to them, as is its capacity for melting and reforging the human soul. The only Muslims they document are the mad fanatics who are worlds away from the piety of most traditional believers.
Those who mock you for buying a house in Las Vegas and shopping at the mall in Caesar's Palace do not believe in your repentance. With casual racism they assume that devilment is in your heart, perhaps even inscribed upon your genes. Only a matter of time, they smirk, before Iron Mike reverts to type.
But we believe in you, Mike. Malcolm X was slammed up for a whole string of hideous crimes, yet he emerged, to the astonishment of hoods who knew him and the bafflement of the press, as a moral paragon, a symbol of hope and transformation for the West's ethnic underclass. Thirty years have passed, and we need another such role model. Muslims, and especially black people, urge you to succeed. Keep those hands up, Mike.
Life & Style blogs
Ebola crisis: Cases pass 10,000 as almost 5,000 killed by disease in eight countries
Alexander Wang for H&M: Pumping video of the campaign filmed in London has been released
Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
Our gums are less healthy than Roman Britons', scientists claim
NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
- 1 Stem cells that can kill cancer have been engineered by scientists
- 2 Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench back campaign to stop Thailand dog meat trade
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Queen's first tweet: Reply telling Her Majesty to 'f*** off' broadcast on BBC News
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...