— -- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was the first of the presidential candidates to express his condolences over the death of boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
“Muhammad Ali is dead at 74! A truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all!” Trump tweeted shortly after the news broke.
But just a few months before his death, Ali, who was Muslim, had some pointed words in response to Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States if he were elected president this November.
In a statement titled, “Presidential Candidates Proposing to Ban Muslim Immigration to the United States” that Ali issued last December after Trump first floated the proposal, the boxing great never mentioned Trump by name – but his message was clear.
“Our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam,” Ali wrote, “and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people's views on what Islam really is.”
The “murderers” he was referring to where the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in Paris, San Bernardino and other incidents carried out by violent Islamic extremists.
Last month, Trump asserted that the proposed Muslim ban was “just a suggestion.”
Ali received praise on Saturday from leaders with The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights group.
"Muhammad Ali, a man who stood by his principles despite criticism and hardship, exemplified a true patriot and a true Muslim," the organization’s National Board Chair Roula Allouch said in a statement. "His strength, courage and love of humanity has been, and will continue to be, an inspiration to people of all faiths and backgrounds in America and worldwide."
Here is Ali’s full statement from last December:
"I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.
“We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.
“Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people's views on what Islam really is."