Mahershala Ali's Oscar win stirs controversy in Pakistan

Pakistan's envoy to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi apparently forced to delete a congratulatory tweet

News Desk February 27, 2017
Mahershala Ali poses with the Oscar for best actor in a supporting role on February 26, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Controversy arose in Pakistan after Mahershala Ali -- who won the best supporting actor Oscar on Sunday for his portrayal of a drug dealer in coming-of-age drama “Moonlight” -- was given the title of the first 'Muslim' film star to pick up a golden statuette.

Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi was forced to delete a congratulatory tweet when people on Twitter began pointing out that Mahershala Ali was an Ahmadi.

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Article 260-3 of Pakistan's Constitution declares Ahmadis “non-Muslims”. The amendment made this exclusion legally in that the phrase “for the purposes of the constitution or law” was used when rendering them non-Muslims.

The deleted tweet and Ali's Ahmadi religion immediately caught the attention of many on Twitter.




A first-time nominee, the 43-year-old actor saw off competition from Britain's Dev Patel, veteran US actors Jeff Bridges and Michael Shannon and newcomer Lucas Hedges, AFP reported.

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“I want to thank my teachers, my professors,” Ali said. “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'.”

He thanked his fellow cast members — and his wife, who gave birth to their first child, a baby girl, just days earlier.

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Barry Jenkins's “Moonlight” tells the life story of a young African-American struggling to find his place as he grows up in a rough neighbourhood of Miami.

Muslims have won Oscars in various categories over the years — including Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and feature director Asghar Farhadi — but none has taken a statuette for acting.

Ellen Burstyn, who won a best actress Oscar in 1975, has practised a blend of Sufism and other religions since her late 30s but has said she considers herself a “spirit open to the truth” rather than a Muslim.



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R S Chakravarti | 4 years ago | Reply I believe this controversy shows why governments should be secular.
Farru | 4 years ago | Reply I am a Pakistani Muslim and I have no issue with Mahershala Ali's sect or faith. He won the award for his performance and that is enough for me. Good luck Ali!
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