Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Actor for his role as Juan in Moonlight. Ali poses with the award at the Governors Ball at Hollywood & Highland Center. Photograph: (AFP)
But celebrations across the Muslim world will remain muted as he belongs to the Ahmadi sect, who are viewed by Sunnis as apostates
When Mahershala Ali won the gong for the best supporting actor at the Academy Awards on Sunday, he became the first Muslim actor to win the golden statuette.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decision to award Ali for his role in 'Moonlight' assumes larger significance as it comes days after the Donald trump administration attempted to ban Muslims from entering the US.
The black actor beat Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) and Dev Patel (Lion) to break new grounds.
Though this year's Oscars was unexpectedly politically-charged due to US President Donald trump's raft of controversial executive orders, Ali kept his acceptance speech subdued and stuck to the movie only.
"I want to thank my teachers, my professors. One thing that they consistently told me... 'It's not about you. It's about these characters. You are a servant. You're in service to these stories and these characters'," said Ali, who recently became a father to a baby daughter.
But Ali, who became a Muslim 17 years back, had spoken about his identity and religion when he won the Screen Actors Guild award last month.
In an atmosphere that has been engulfed with religion, and often bigotry, Ali spoke about the need to keep such differences aside.
"My mother is an ordained minister. I'm a Muslim. She didn’t do black flips when I told her I converted 17 years ago," he had said on January 29.
"(But) I’m able to see her. She’s able to see me. We love each other...and that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important."
Unlike last year's Oscars which was slammed by many as being a racist ceremony, this year was a more diverse affair with Ali, Dev Patel and Denzel Washington, among others, getting a nod in the acting awards.
Mahershala Ali Oscar win created a furore in Pakistan after Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations, deleted a tweet that noted Ali was the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award. The tweet, however, was spotted by Twitter users who saved screen grabs.
Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations, deleted a tweet that noted Ali was the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award. (Others)
There are several Muslim-majority countries where Mahershala Ali’s Oscar win for his role in Moonlight won’t be celebrated. That’s because he belongs to the minority Ahmadi sect. In countries such as Malaysia and Pakistan, Ahmadis are reviled by hardline Sunni Muslim groups as heretics and even infidels.