“Mahershala Ali makes history as he becomes the first black Muslim to win an Oscar for Best Actor” – the most superficial caption to grace the Oscar themed headlines.

Far from reality, the fact is that history will not be made until his faith does not dictate the value of his win and make his win less important.

I mean, in “our world” he is not a Muslim. Ahmadis are not Muslims right? Everywhere you see something about Ahmadis, many are quick to state that they are not Muslims?

The Ahmadiyaa sect has been persecuted and labelled as kaffir (non Muslim) due to their reverence of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadiani, a belief that is disputed within the mainstream Muslim community.

Social media has been buzzing with stories, hash tags and statuses about “the first black Muslim wins as best actor” yet the Muslim community still remains divided in its celebrations for the Oscar winner.

With a long history of persecution towards the Ahmadiyya sect, Pakistan’s stance has resulted in torture, killings and shunning of the community.

The irony lies within the fact that according to Pakistani law Mahershala is not a Muslim (under Ordinance XX which since 1984 has prohibited the Ahmadiyya community from relating to and referring to Islamic terms).

 A Muslim holding a Pakistan passport has to declare “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadiani to be an imposter nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori or Qadiani group to be non-Muslim.”

Those who accept Mahershala Ali as a Muslim live in fear of being condemned– and even those praising his win have remained understandably diplomatic to refrain from publicly accepting his stance as a Muslim.

Even Pakistani actor Hamza Ali Abbasi used Facebook to clarify his views on the win“Congratulations Mahershala Ali for winning an Oscar. I highly disagree with your Ahmadi/Qadiyani religion and my countrymen think you are not Muslim. However, you believe with all your heart and soul that you are a Muslim and putting all scholarly debates about Aqeeda aside, thats enough for me to feel the bond of brotherhood with you and congratulate you on your win. CONGRATULATION”

Many have taken to Twitter to question the actor – “did it really need to be highlighted that you don’t agree with his religion?”

“When a Christian or Jew won an Oscar did people feel it necessary to write ‘Congratulations on your win but I highly disagree with your religion?’” (sic).

But this is normal – this is the protocol that has to be taken to avoid the fear of being misconstrued as a supporter of the Ahmadi faith. It is seemingly far more important to clarify yourself than supporting the fact that a black man who believes he is a Muslim won an Oscar and made history.

It is nothing new that human rights and freedom are lacking when it comes to Ahmadis.

A win for Maheshala is a taunt to the Muslim community as it reinforces certain mentalities and brings them out to the public agenda.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Oscars have seen many Muslims turn a blind eye to the persecution, in an attempt to unite the community (or selfishly reap his rewards), Mahershala Ali has been praised and accepted as the first Muslim actor to win…social media has been quick to jump on the band wagon and show pride as he becomes the first MUSLIM to win.

This makes the win bittersweet; on one hand we should be happy at all the praise Mahershala has been receiving for changing the status quo, yet if anything it has encouraged deeper divides to surface and even forced Ahmadi persecution to be brushed under the carpet.

As usual, the Western media dictates – after the media labels him as a Muslim, shock, horror – the public generally accepts he is a Muslim. They latch on to him in the hopes of shining their Muslim name.

But then we have the Pakistani media dictating him as a non-Muslim, and once again, shock, horror – the Pakistani audience accepts he is a non-believer and refuse to let him tarnish the Muslim name, refuse to accept a “Muslim” has changed history, and refuse to give him any credit for his win.

So why, despite years of Ahmadi persecution, are so many claiming their right on his win?

Not because he has changed history, not because they are agreeing with his faith, not because they ultimately accept he is a Muslim and most definitely NOT because they think Ahmadi persecution is wrong– yet simply because they want the West to believe that “Muslims” are making history.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect South Asia Scene’s editorial policy.


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