A Turkish educational foundation that bought the home of legendary American boxer Muhammad Ali has announced plans to turn the property into a summer school for Muslim youth.
The Turken Foundation purchased the 81 acre farm at the edge of the Joseph River in Berrien Springs in Michigan at the beginning of this year for $2.5 million. Complete with a swimming pool, gym and basketball court, the estate is where the former heavyweight champion spent his summers and a portion of his retirement. In 2006, Ali and his wife moved to Arizona.
Ali, a former world heavyweight champion, died in June 2016 at the age of 74 in the U.S. city of Phoenix after suffering from respiratory illness complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
“We immediately thought of purchasing it when we saw it was up for sale. Ali spent the last two decades of his life here,” foundation head Behram Turan said of the deal. “What motivated us in this acquisition is that it was near Chicago where a large Muslim community lives and this was a place where we preserve Ali’s memory,”
Turken was established in 2014 and is dedicated to assisting Turkish students with housing, scholarships and cultural programs, as well as promoting cross-cultural relationships and understanding between various Muslim students’ traditions and American culture.
The organization now plans to develop the property into a summer school for Muslims as well as a hub for the local community. Turan said the place will also serve Muslims who come to the United States to study.
“Our work will be supported both by the Muhammad Ali Museum and the family of Ali. We want it to serve as a functioning community centre with summer school and conferences,” Turan added. “This will also be a chance for students to be inspired by Ali’s life philosophy and work for success. It will obviously be beneficial to the Muslim community in the United States to use this property for this specific purpose.”
Ali was known as Cassius Clay before he embraced Islam in the early 1960s with the Nation of Islam group, which combined Islam with African-American political activism, before turning to mainstream Sunni Islam in 1975.
He held the heavyweight title on three separate occasions. His fights are among the greatest in the sport. However, it was his charisma and devotion to causes such as civil rights that led him to transcend boxing.