Muhammad Ali's son detained at Florida airport

Muhammad Ali Jr. says he 'didn't know what to think', when immigration agents at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international airport asked him to state his religion and then detained him when he told them he was a Muslim.

WASHINGTON • A son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali was held for questioning for two hours at a Florida airport upon returning from Jamaica because of his Arabic-sounding name, according to the United States media.

Muhammad Ali Jr, 44, who was born in Philadelphia and has a US passport, was travelling with his mother - Ms Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the late sports icon's second wife - friend and lawyer Chris Mancini told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

He said that both were held for questioning at Fort Lauderdale International Airport on Feb 7 because of their Arabic-sounding names. Ms Camacho-Ali, however, was released after she showed US Customs agents a photo of herself with her ex-husband.

Mr Ali Jr, however, had no such photo - and according to Mr Mancini, was held for nearly two hours and repeatedly asked "Where did you get your name from?" and "Are you Muslim?"

When he said that he - like his father - was a Muslim, the agents asked further probing questions.

"To the Ali family, it's crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr Trump's efforts to ban Muslims from the United States," Mr Mancini told the Courier-Journal, a reference to President Donald Trump's late January executive order imposing a 90-day entry ban for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. The travel ban has since been halted by a US federal court.

Mr Mancini said that he and the Ali family are trying to find out how many other people were stopped for similar questioning, and are considering a federal lawsuit. Airport and Customs officials did not answer queries from the newspaper about the case.

Ali, one of the celebrated 20th-century sports heroes, died after a long battle with Parkinson's disease on June 3 last year, aged 74.

He was celebrated as much for his three world heavyweight titles as for his civil-rights battles outside the ring. In 1964, Ali dropped his birth name of Cassius Clay when he converted to Islam. The Louisville, Kentucky native was married four times. He was survived by seven daughters and two sons.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 26, 2017, with the headline 'Muhammad Ali's son detained at Florida airport'. Print Edition | Subscribe