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Oscars 2021: Riz Ahmed Makes History as the First Muslim to Be Nominated for Best Actor

Riz Ahmed photographed by Hassan Hajjaj

Riz Ahmed has just made history as the first Muslim to be nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Lead Actor category. The British-Pakistani actor and musician shared the news on social media by saying, “Wow! I’m honored by my fellow actors alongside such inspiring performances, and am grateful to the Academy for their support and encouragement.”

The 38-year-old is nominated for his role in Sound of Metal, which released last fall, where he plays Ruben Stone, a rock-n-roll drummer and recovering addict whose life is forever changed when he loses his ability to hear. The plot weaves a narrative that is less about his loss of hearing but more about seeking truth and purpose in a reconfigured reality. Directed by Darius Marder the picture received a total of six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Paul Rauci.

Ahmed is up against six-time nominee and one-time winner Anthony Hopkins, one-time winner Garry Oldman, the newly nominated Steven Yeun, and the posthumously nominated Chadwick Boseman. The actor previously made history in 2017 as the first Muslim man to win an Emmy for his performance in HBO’s The Night Of, also making him the first South Asian man to win an Emmy in an acting category overall. In addition to that, the actor also received nominations for the Golden Globes, the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and the Screen Actor Guild Awards.

Although Muslims have been represented in the Academy Awards categories in the past, this is the first time one has been nominated for the coveted Best Lead Actor award. Mahershala Ali, the American-Muslim actor has previously been awarded twice for his roles in Moonlight in 2017 and Green Book in 2019 as Best Supporting Actor.

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