Ali was a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam in 1967, a principled stance that cost him financial and sporting success. It led to him being stripped of his world heavyweight championship at age 25 and a three-and-a-half year exile from boxing.
Eventually, it also brought Ali widespread popularity as, even in the US, public opinion slowly turned against the war. In the 1960s, however, Ali belonged to the Nation of Islam, which as Hauser explains, “is very different from orthodox Islam. It’s a form of American apartheid, where they preached that the white people were devils.”
The Nation also taught that the white devil-race was created by a scientist, Mr Yakub, 6,600 years ago – and that man-made UFOs circled the earth that would one day bomb the world. These were the views that a straight-faced Ali willingly espoused to large crowds and into the microphones of eager journalists.