Mahershala Ali accepts the award for best actor in a supporting role for Moonlight at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Mahershala Ali accepts the award for best actor in a supporting role for Moonlight at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Chris Pizzello

Muslim actor makes Oscars history

IT'S been a big week for actor Mahershala Ali, who welcomed his daughter four days ago and just became the first Muslim to win an Oscar.

His Best Supporting Actor win today - for his performance in Moonlight as a drug dealer who takes a troubled young boy under his wing - comes in a year where the US government has placed travel restrictions on seven Muslim majority countries, leading other Oscar nominees from Iran and Syria to have to skip the Academy Awards ceremony.

Ali stayed away from overtly political commentary in his humble acceptance speech.

He instead thanked his teachers over the years, Moonlight's director Barry Jenkins and his wife Amatus Sami-Karim "for being such a soldier" for going through awards season heavily pregnant.

Mahershala Ali and Alex R Hibbert in a scene from the movie Moonlight.
Mahershala Ali and Alex R Hibbert in a scene from the movie Moonlight. David Bornfriend

The Californian had also pretty much said all that could be said in his poignant speech when he picked up the Screen Actors Guild last month - just days after the executive order that instituted Trump's "Muslim ban".

There, Ali said Moonlight had taught him about what happens when you persecute people and his pride in playing someone who "saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered, that he was okay. And accept him".

He added: "I hope that we do a better job of that."

He also spoke about appreciating "the details that make us different".

Mahershala Ali poses in the press room with the award for best actor in a supporting role for \
Mahershala Ali poses in the press room with the award for best actor in a supporting role for \"Moonlight\" at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Jordan Strauss

"My mother is an ordained minister," he said. "I'm a Muslim. She didn't do back flips when I called her and told her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, we put things to the side, and I was able to see her. She is able to see me. We love each other."

Though a fixture of Jimmy Kimmel's opening monologue and subsequent bits, the Oscars have thus far been lighter on political vitriol than was expected.

Ali is also only the fifth black actor to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and the first in 13 years.

News Corp Australia


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