Mahershala Ali made history on Feb. 26, 2017.
He won Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 89th Academy Awards for his standout job in “Moonlight.” With it, Ali became the first Muslim to snag an Oscar in an acting category.*
In his emotional speech, Ali thanked his past acting teachers, his co-stars in the film, and his wife, who gave birth to Ali’s first child just days ago.
Ali’s win comes at a tumultuous time for Muslims in the West. Hate crimes targeting their communities have risen sharply in the U.S., a terrorist attacked a mosque in Quebec City on Jan. 29, 2017, killing six people and injuring others (President Donald Trump’s silence in the shooting’s aftermath spoke volumes), and within days of his inauguration, one of Trump’s first executive orders was banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries — a controversial move that has since been blocked in court.
Ali’s historic victory is important in showing that Muslims are our neighbors, our teachers, our leaders, our friends — and, now, Oscar winners too.
*Ellen Burstyn won Best Actress for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” in 1975. Her faith is a blend of many religions, including Sufism, which is a form of Islam.