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Why The Placement Of Muhammad Ali's Star On The Walk Of Fame Matters

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A man poses in front of Ali's star on in front of the Dolby Theater in Hollywood (David McNew/ Getty Images)
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Muhammad Ali's star on the Walk of Fame is the only one of the 2,500 sprinkled throughout Hollywood to not be placed on the sidewalk. It's not simply because the greatest of all time deserved such special treatment, but because his religious conviction and unwavering pride in being Muslim made it so.

When the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce requested to honor him with a star in 2002 for the "live performance" his years of boxing constituted, Ali agreed, so long as they kept his star off the ground, and mount it on a wall instead as a sign of respect.

"I bear the name of our beloved prophet Mohammad, and it is impossible that I allow people to trample over his name," said Ali at the time. He didn't want to be walked on by "people who have no respect for me."

In this moving piece on the significance of the star's placement, ESPN's Arash Markazi details why this gesture was so important to him, and to Muslims in America.

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It was never harder being a Muslim than after Sept. 11, 2001. Islam was no longer thought of as a religion, but as a terrorist group of radical followers. It was Ali who took it upon himself to stand up and speak out, during a time when Parkinson's had made it hard for him to do either. "Islam is a religion of peace. It does not promote terrorism or killing people," Ali said. "People say a Muslim caused this destruction. I am angry that the world sees a certain group of Islam followers who caused this destruction, but they are not real Muslims. They are racist fanatics who call themselves Muslims, permitting this murder of thousands."

And this, on the catharsis of visiting the star— a defiant symbol of pride in Islam in a culture that often vilifies such expressions:
When I woke up Saturday morning, I felt the need to drive to Ali's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star. I stood in line with other fans who had made the trip to pay their respects, take a picture and leave behind flowers and other mementos. I had taken family members by that star when they visited from Iran, Dubai, Turkey and other parts of the Middle East. They were always so proud -- not because Ali had a star, but because of the story behind his star hanging on the wall instead of it being on the ground. It gave the star greater meaning, and it gave others a better understanding of what his name and religion really meant.

Meanwhile, down the boulevard from this inspiring, important story, sits the star of Donald Trump (who questioned the existence of Muslim-American sports heroes, and was promptly shot down by Ali and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar) which is frequently spray-painted with quasi-swastikas and quite literally pooped on.