Mahershala Ali Becomes First Muslim Actor to Win an Oscar

Mahershala Ali Oscar Win
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Mahershala Ali made history at Sunday night’s Oscars, becoming the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award.

He won the first award of the night, best supporting actor, for “Moonlight.” It was one of the more uneasy races in the major categories. While Ali had been the critics’ champ and won the Screen Actors Guild prize, he lost the Golden Globe (Aaron Taylor-Johnson in “Nocturnal Animals”) and the British Academy prize (Dev Patel in “Lion”) to other contenders. In the end, the “Moonlight” star pulled it out.

During an emotional speech, Ali thanked his “wonderful teachers and professors,” and shared with the audience some advice he received from them: “It’s not about you, it’s about these characters. You are a servant. You’re in service to these stories and these characters.”


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He also thanked his wife, who just gave birth a few days ago. “I just want to thank her for being a soldier through it all and carrying me through this process,” he said of awards season.

The milestone comes after President Donald Trump imposed a ban denying travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries entry into the U.S. The controversial executive order has sparked protests across the country.

While Ali did not bring this up during his speech Sunday night, after he won a SAG Award earlier this year, he proudly declared, “I’m a Muslim.” “Moonlight” is up for several more awards Sunday night, including best picture.

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  1. David says:

    Ellen Burstyn is a practicing Muslim. Won hers in ’75.

  2. Lynn Cardarelli says:

    I guess Omar Sharif being a Muslem and winning the oscar for best supporting actor in 1963 doesn’t count because it was last century.

  3. H Roberts says:

    He wasn’t born a muslim, he converted to muslim. He was born an American, still is, but practices muslim religion. He is not an immigrant nor a refugee. He is an American citizen.

  4. Debbie says:

    So you are a Muslim!!! Big friggin deal. Now all of a sudden we are supposed to be putting the Muslim religion on a pedestal while we are bashing the Christian faith.. FORGET IT!!! I could care less whether you are Muslim. That is probably the only reason you got the award this year because of this fact because we are now on a let’s bow down before the Muslim religion. DISGUSTING!!

    • Christine says:

      Did you see the film Debbie? He was actually incredible in the role; Moonlight was an amazing film and it totally deserved Best Picture and he deserved Best Supporting Actor. He was also in Hidden Figures and was great in that role too. Since you don’t seem to know much about film/TV, I’m not sure why you’re posting, other than to disparage a person/religion and imply that his religion is the only reason he won–which it absolutely was not. So why not move along since you have nothing nice to say? I was taught not to say anything at all when that was the case. But I have manners ;-)

  5. Josh says:

    Wrong. A.R. Rahman, Resul pokutty from India who are Muslims had received the Oscars for Slum Dog Millionaire. Please correct it. Other wise people might accuse you of fake news.

  6. Rex says:

    Somehow I doubt his win will faze the Trumpanzee Bigots too much — since he was born in the U.S. and raised Christian before converting, and doesn’t expressly play Muslim characters only. The real conversation starter would be seeing a life-long Muslim take to that stage, in full cultural attire, thanking Allah, you name it. Then we’d see the claws come out on the right (again)

    • ScarletPimpernel says:

      “The real conversation starter would be seeing a life-long Muslim take to that stage, in full cultural attire, thanking Allah, you name it.”

      No, the real “conversation starter” would be seeing a former Muslim who has left Islam to follow Yeshua get up on the stage and thank his Jewish Messiah. But, of course, Hollywood would never honor such a person, and you know it.

      • Josh says:

        How different Ali & Resul Pokutty are! While Ali has thanked Allah, Resul Pokutty has said “I come from a country and a civilization that given the universal word. That word is preceded by silence, followed by more silence. That word is ‘Om.’ So I dedicate this award to my country…….”
        Resul Pokutty praised the word “Om” which is a sacred word for Hindus even though he’s a Muslim. Resul Pokutty’s case is Secularism which Ali’s case is pure politics.

    • Charles says:

      That would be a fun way to troll them.

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