For the first time in the Academy Awards’ history, the best actor category includes a Muslim nominee. Riz Ahmed is on the Oscar ballot for Sunday night’s award show for his portrayal of a drummer who loses his hearing in “Sound of Metal.”
The British Pakistani actor’s nomination gives him a certain cachet within the industry and could catapult his surging career to astronomical heights. But the mere presence of Ahmed’s name and multihyphenated identity in the list of best actor candidates carries a significance that easily eclipses his individual success.
For decades, Hollywood has regularly featured Muslim tropes such as the violent terrorist, the wealthy and crooked Arab sheikh and the woman who is either a fully veiled subordinate or a lascivious belly dancer. Yet a confluence of the #OscarsSoWhite social movement, Tinseltown’s push for greater Muslim inclusion as a counter-response to former President Donald Trump’s virulent Islamophobia and Ahmed’s own considerable talents allowed him to make a dent in these entrenched stereotypes.
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