As a Muslim, watching Mahershala Ali win an Oscar gave me hope

Ali is proof that we are here to thrive, we are here to go beyond, and we are here to stay

His full name is Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.

He may have been announced by his nickname, Mahershala, but it’s up there, forever ingrained in The Academy history, as the first Muslim to win an Oscar.

Ali won the Best Supporting Actor award for ‘Moonlight,’ where he took on the role of Juan, who took main character, Chiron, under his wing. Together with Janelle Monae who played Teresa, Juan’s wife, they taught Chiron how to swim and hold his head high.

In an interview with IndieWire, Ali said, “Who is that person that comes around and says, ‘You are OK, you are worthy, you are special’? That makes all the difference in the world for many of us. Those are the people we appreciate the most.”

For a little Muslim girl who is told she isn’t welcome in the country she calls home. For the little Black boy who is told to hold in his emotions and toughen up. For the young adult who has spent her whole life hiding who she is because it’s not ‘acceptable.’

For them, Mahershala might be that person.

In his speech Sunday night, Ali said, “It’s not about you,” in reference to himself, “It’s about these characters. You’re in service to these stories, to these characters. I’m so blessed to have had an opportunity. It was about Juan. It was about Chiron. It was about Paula.”

And while I agree, I’d like to give him more credit than that. Ali’s breathtaking performance gave life to the character who was a guiding light to a little boy in need. He made it real, and it’s not just about his skills as an actor, but who he is.

This Black-Muslim man poured his heart into his work and showed what can be done when you’re given a chance. His win showed the support we as Muslims in America actually have, even though it may be clouded by the hate of the misguided few.

Ali is proof that we are here to thrive, we are here to go beyond, and we are here to stay.

His name is Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, and he won an Oscar.

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