Rabbi Michael Lerner, who supported Muhammad Ali in his opposition to the Vietnam War, drew multiple standing ovations on Friday as he spoke at the legendary boxer’s funeral.
“We will not tolerate politicians or anyone else putting down Muslims and blaming Muslims for a few people,” said Lerner, in a thinly-veiled criticism of Republican Donald Trump, who has openly called for a ban on Muslim immigration into the US. “We know what it’s like to be demeaned. We know what it’s like to have a few people who act against the highest vision of our tradition to then be identified as the value of the entire tradition.”
Lerner opened his remarks by saying he attended the service as “a representative of American Jews,” and expressed his solidarity with Islamic communities worldwide. Later in the service, he issued a sweeping call for social justice, including a call for a universal basic income and an end to mass incarceration.
He drew another ovation when he predicted victory for Hillary Clinton in this year’s presidential election without mentioning her by name.
“Tell the next president of the United States that she should seek a constitutional amendment to make all national and state elections funded by Congress and the state legislatures, and all other sources of money be banned — including money from corporations, from individuals. Make it all public funding,” he said. “Tell her that the way to achieve homeland security is not for us to try new ways of domination. The strategy of domination of The world of ‘the other’ to get security has been tried for the last 10,000 years and it doesn’t work. The way to get security is for the United States to become Known as the most generous and caring country in the world, not the most powerful.”
Lerner, who founded the progressive magazine Tikkun, was a leader in the Free Speech Movement and was arrested as part of the “Seattle Seven” in 1970 for allegedly inciting a riot. Lerner and Ali met as part of the anti-war movement. Though they did not keep in contact since 1995, Ali’s family invited the rabbi to speak at the memorial.
Watch Lerner’s remarks, as posted online, below.