-- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cut short his trip to the United States today after being denied permission to participate in critical aspects of Muhammad Ali's funeral, according to a report published by Turkey's Dogan news agency.
Erdogan traveled to the U.S. to partake in Ali's funeral services. He decided to leave after reportedly being denied the right to drape a piece of ceremonial cloth on Ali's coffin during funeral prayers. Before arriving on U.S. soil, funeral organizers had removed him from the list of potential speakers at Ali's funeral, citing a limitation of time as the cause for his exclusion, according to Dogan.
Adding to an air of discord surrounding the Turkish president's trip was a short quarrel that allegedly occurred between U.S. secret service officials and Turkish presidential body guards over a matter of standing room. A request for comment by ABC News to the U.S. Secret Service was not immediately returned.
Erdogan, who has made the promotion of his Muslim heritage a central part of his legacy as president, highlighted Ali's Muslim faith yesterday at a dinner with several American Muslims.
“I once more wish Allah’s mercy upon Muhammad Ali, who, with his strong personality, had his name written in golden letters and left his mark on his own country and the entire world,” he said.
Ali's connection to Turkey began on a trip he took to Istanbul in October 1976, when he met with then-Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, who was a mentor of Erdogan.
A funeral procession in Louisville today went smoothly without Erdogan's inclusion. Thousands of people gathered to pay their respects to Ali, chanting the boxing legend's name as the procession drove through his hometown.
Flowers and wreaths were laid at the site of his childhood home, and participants described the mood of the affair as warm and jovial.
Erdogan has not released a statement on his departure from the states.