Turkey’s Erdogan to Join Dignitaries, Celebrities at Ali Memorials

A memorial to honor Muhammad Ali, the former world heavyweight boxing champion after he died at the age of 74 on Friday at the Louisville Islamic Center in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. June 5, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II

By Kia Johnson

LOUISVILLE, June 7 – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will join former U.S. President Bill Clinton and comedian Billy Crystal among the politicians, religious leaders and entertainers speaking at two public memorial services for boxing legend Muhammad Ali this week, a family spokesman said on Monday.

More than 30,000 tickets will be distributed to the public for the two memorials scheduled for Thursday and Friday in sports arenas in Ali’s home town of Louisville, Kentucky, Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell said.

Mourners who cannot get tickets will be able to watch a funeral procession that will drive Ali’s remains through Louisville, including along a boulevard bearing his name, to the Cave Hill Cemetery.

Ali and his family had planned his funeral for a decade.

Information about securing tickets for an Islamic prayer service on Thursday at Freedom Hall arena and an interfaith service at KFC Yum! Center on Friday is expected to be announced on Monday at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT). The Friday event will also be streamed live.

Ali, who joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay in 1964, was a hero for many Muslims in the United States and around the world.

In addition to the two public services, a private service for Ali’s family and closer friends is scheduled for Friday morning, before the funeral procession.

The boxing great died on Friday in Arizona at age 74 of septic shock. He had suffered for years from Parkinson’s syndrome. His body was flown to Louisville on Sunday.

Hundreds of people have already left flowers, messages and other tributes at the Muhammad Ali Center, a museum and cultural center in Louisville.

Thursday’s Islamic funeral prayer program at the Freedom Hall arena in Louisville will accommodate up to 18,000 people. The service is to be led by Imam Zaid Shakir of California.

The statement on behalf of Ali’s family said the service was being held at Freedom Hall to commemorate Ali’s last fight in Louisville. He defeated Willi Besmanoff there on Nov. 29, 1961.

On Friday Clinton and Crystal are scheduled deliver eulogies at an interfaith service at 2 p.m. EDT at the KFC Yum! Center sports arena. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah will also speak. The service will accommodate up to 15,500 people.

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