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Mahershala Ali Becomes First Muslim Actor to Win an Oscar

Variety logo Variety 2/27/2017 Kristopher Tapley
© Provided by Variety

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.”

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.

Slideshow: Oscar winners & highlights 

2017 Academy Awards: Winners and highlights

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