Haaretz | "Religion ain’t bad; it’s people who are bad," he said. "You know the entire power structure is Zionist. They control America; they control the world. They are really against the Islam religion. So whenever a Muslim does something wrong, they blame the religion.”
Despite his frequent jabs at the Jewish community and Israel, Ali couldn't seem to alienate some of his most fervent Jewish admirers, among them Hollywood star Billy Crystal.
Crystal's 1977 impression of the boxing legend deciding to convert to Judaism and change his name to Izzy Yiskowitz became legendary on its own right. Fifteen years later, Ali had the pleasure of having Crystal perform at his 50th birthday party.
Sportscaster Howard Cosell, born Howard Cohen, was perhaps Ali's biggest defender. Unlike many others, Cosell immediately called Ali by his new, Islamic name after he changed it from Cassius Clay, and also stood up for his right to resist the draft. The Jewish journalist and the Muslim champion had a rapport that was evident in post-fight interviews, where they exchanged barbs and bantered, drawing in enchanted viewers.