SAG awards: Mahershala Ali steals the night with his powerful speech on persecution

A practising Muslim, Ali talked about his own life, the current political climate of the United States, and his film into a message about American empathy, or the lack thereof

SAG awards: Mahershala Ali steals the night with his powerful speech on persecution

Mahershala Ali, the American known for his role in the series "House of Cards" won his first Screen Actors Guild award on Sunday for his role in Moonlight, and delivered one of the most touching and poignant acceptance speech of the evening. A practising Muslim, Ali talked about his own life, the current political climate of the United States, and his film into a message about American empathy, or the lack thereof.


“I think what I have learned from working on Moonlight, you see what happens when you persecute people, and they fold into themselves,” Ali said. “What I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered, that he was okay. And accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that.”

Ali's character in Moonlight, Juan is a mentor. His acceptance speech refers to that character who takes the troubled main character, Chiron and inspires him to change the course of life.

Ali's words were a reflection of the real world events of two days before when US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on immigration that bans refugees' entry to the US which specifically targets people from Muslim-majority nations. The order saw authorities' breakdown on refugees including detention of refugees, people with visas, and green card holders. Protests by various groups against the ruling erupted all over the country, declaring the act cruel and un-American.

“When we kind of get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us different, there's two ways of seeing that,” he continued. “There's an opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique. And then there's the opportunity to go to war about it — to say, ‘That person is different from me, and I don't like you, so let's battle.’”

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