RELIGION

Some Muslims Think That’s Not A Muslim Oscar Win At All

Mahershala Ali belongs to a minority Muslim sect that has mainstream Muslims refusing to recognize his historic win

RELIGION
Best Supporting Actor winner Mahershala Ali. — REUTERS
Feb 27, 2017 at 9:29 AM ET

Mahershala Ali, who took home the Oscar for best supporting actor on Sunday for his role in Best Picture winner Moonlight, is being widely celebrated as the first Muslim to ever win an Oscar. But that win isn’t being celebrated by all Muslims everywhere. Ali belongs to a minority sect in the religion that is viewed as heretical to other more mainstream strands of the religion.

Mahershala Ali is an Ahmadi Muslim. Ahmadiyya is an Islamic religious revival movement founded in India during the 19th century. Its faith is centered on the belief that its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is a promised messiah and prophet of Islam, but it is reviled in many countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. Pakistani Ahmadis are prohibited by law from identifying themselves as Muslims. In some countries they face persecution and bans on proselytizing.

Someone who shares Ali’s beliefs could be officially banned from entering Saudi Arabia, face pogroms and segregation in Indonesia, and terrorized in Bangladesh.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, initially tweeted in praise of Ali’s win as first the Muslim Oscar recipient before realizing he was Ahmadi, which prompted her to delete the tweet shortly after. Some on Twitter captured a screenshot before it disappeared.

Some disputed Ali’s status as a Muslim, referring to Ali and Ahmadis as “Qadiani,” a slur used in South Asia against Ahmadi Muslims. Dozens of posts were found using the term after Ali accepted his award.

Mahershala Ali spoke about his faith in January, when he accepted a SAG Award for the role of Juan in Moonlight. Ali converted to Islam from Christianity in 1999, and joined Ahmadiyya in 2001 after meeting members of the community in Los Angeles. There are an estimated 15-20,000 Ahmadi Muslims living in the United States.