Erdogan rings bell on US after Muhammad Ali tiff

Erdogan rings bell on US after Muhammad Ali tiff
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly flew back to Turkey early after an argument erupted at funeral prayers for legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.
2 min read
11 Jun, 2016
Erdogan attended the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville [Anadolu]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cut short a trip to the United States, reportedly after a row at the funeral of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.

Erdogan was involved in a squabble at a funeral prayers ceremony for Muslim boxer Ali, after US secret service agents stopped him from putting a piece of cloth on the Ali's coffin.

The cloth was reportedly a fragment of the Kabaa's black curtain, which shields the most sacred site in Islam from pilgrims, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily reported.

Others said the argument was started over Erdogan being told there was no time for him to recite a passage of the Quran during the ceremony.

A public spat also reportedly took place between the president's bodyguards and agents after disagreements erupted about who stood with Erdogan when he got into his car.

Turkey's leader reportedly dismissed rumours of a boycott, saying he left because he had "completed his religious duty", Reuters reported.

Erdogan then left the funeral after breaking fast with mourners, visiting the Muhammad Ali Center and taking part in the Islamic ceremony in Ali's hometown Louisville.

He did not attend the more publicised second day of the funeral taking place on Friday when Ali will be buried.

Muhammad Ali was the world's most well-known boxer, achieving celebrity status thanks to his quick feet in the ring, and even quicker quips.

The boxer was also a committed Muslim, who risked jail for refusing to fight in Vietnam in 1967 saying it was against his religious beliefs.

Erdogan is the head of Turkey's centre-right Islamist Justice and Development Party, and some say is trying to shape himself as a modern leader for Muslims across the world.

Although Erdogan is not known to be a boxing fan, Ali's religious beliefs were thought to be the reason he attended the funeral.

"The fact that he converted to Islam at the age of 22 in a country such as the United States and maintained his stance without diverting from the path he knew as right ... attracted our admiration," he said in a statement.

It appeared to be a swipe at the US, but lacked Ali's punch or famed wit.