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Watch Mahershala Ali's Powerful SAG Awards Acceptance Speech

Image via screenshot
Image via screenshot

At tonight’s SAG Awards, in a vote consisting solely of his peers, Mahershala Ali finally won a beyond-deserved honor for the role of Juan in Moonlight. And given the dark context of the last couple of days, Ali both elaborated on the important meaning of the characters in Moonlight, and on his feelings as a Muslim American in the current climate of religious persecution.

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With tenderness and emotion, he gave it all. Congratulations to Ali for finally receiving institutional recognition for such a powerful role, and thanks to him for this speech. Watch it here.

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DISCUSSION

This might be a good time to recall something of which many of us are ignorant in our own history. It is estimated that 10 to 30% of Africans forced to our shores as slaves were of Muslim descent: many of them spoke and wrote in Arabic; some of them Hafidhs who had memorised the entire Qu’ran and could recite it in its entirety.

There were many known cases of slaves who could read, write and speak in Arabic (aside from their own languages of origin) being enslaved to illiterate white plantation owners. Some of those enslaved wrote verses of the Qu’ran on the wall which were dismissed as scribbling or otherwise mocked as infantile African art by those who had no idea of its provenance or meaning.

Islam has a long and storied history in these United States.