Donald Trump accused of 'hypocrisy' over Twitter tribute to Muhammad Ali

'Don’t tell me how much you love Muhammad Ali and yet you’re going to be prejudiced against Muslims in this country'

Muhammad Ali receives The UCP's Humanitarian Award from Donald Trump at the United Cerebral Palsey dinner at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York, on March 14, 2001
Muhammad Ali receives The UCP's Humanitarian Award from Donald Trump at the United Cerebral Palsey dinner at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York, on March 14, 2001

Donald Trump has been accused of “hypocrisy” for his tributes to Muhammad Al, as Bernie Sanders criticised those who praise the boxing legend while being "prejudiced against Muslims in this country".

After publically calling for all Muslims to be banned from entering the US, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate sparked a political row by tweeting: “Muhammad Ali is dead at 74! A truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all!”

Mr Trump and Ali had a relationship going back at least 35 years, with Ali attending the businessman’s second wedding in 2005, and their paths crossed at countless charity events.

Muhammad Ali in his own words

But last year, Ali issued a statement entitled “Presidential Candidates Proposing to Ban Muslim Immigration to the United States”, in which he said: “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.”

Many have interpreted the statement as a criticism of Mr Trump’s suggested policy, despite the fact Ali failed to mention him by name.

Asked about the statement on Saturday, Mr Trump said he did not “believe that was about me”. “He never mentioned the name or anything like that,” he said, adding that if it were about him, Ali “would have mentioned the name”.

Adding to his online tribute, Mr Trump said of Ali: “He was two people. In the ring, he was fierce, and outside of the ring, he was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.” He added that he was an “amazing poet”, “so generous”, and a “terrific guy”.

Nonetheless, followers on Twitter were quick to contrast Ali’s devotion to Islam with Mr Trump’s ban on Muslims.

Mr Sanders, who still entertains hopes of being the presidential rival opposite Mr Trump, explicitly called out those who praise Ali while condemning Muslims.

He said in an LA press conference: "I’ve been all over this country and I’m talking to Muslim people who say, ‘You know, Bernie, our kids are now afraid.’

"I say to those people, one of the great American heroes in modern American history was Muhammad Ali, a very proud Muslim.

10 of the scariest things Donald Trump has ever said

He added: "Don’t tell me how much you love Muhammad Ali and yet you’re going to be prejudiced against Muslims in this country."

Responding to Mr Trump on Twitter, Sam Heughan suggested that maybe Ali “would not be allowed in the country under your proposals”.

David Hobby asked if Ali would have received a “special exemption from your Muslim ban” – like the one Mr Trump offered to Sadiq Khan upon his election as London Mayor.

And the comedian Brian Gaar said, simply, “[Donald Trump], you are the epitome of everything he despised.”

Others pointed to a tweet Mr Trump posted in the wake of a speech by Barack Obama on the San Bernardino shootings. In it, the businessman appeared to suggest he wasn’t aware of any Muslim “sport heroes”.

The President had urged people in the US to rise above an Islamaphobic reaction to the terrorist incident saying “Muslims-Americans are our friends, neighbours and sports heroes”.

Mr Trump reacted: “Obama said in his speech that Muslims are our sports heroes. What sport is he talking about, and who? Is Obama profiling?”

Again speaking on Saturday, Mr Trump said the post did not mean he was unaware of any Muslim sports stars.

“I know who they are. I mean, look, Muhammad Ali is somebody that I’ve liked for a long time — and I know he’s Muslim.

“All I’m saying is, ‘I’d like [Obama] to name them because I agree there are some. That’s not a knock by any stretch of the imagination.’”

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