On Sunday September 17 2017, Riz Ahmed became the first Asian and Muslim man to win an Emmy award. He also became the very first Muslim to win an Emmy acting award. I know it is ridiculous that people are still firsts in 2017, but that's something for another blog. Riz was nominated against first time nominees Ewan McGregor, Robert De Niro, and Emmy winners Benedict Cumberbatch, John Turturro, and the iconic Geoffrey Rush, yet Riz was successful to get the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. Everybody predicted Riz to be the winner but it was still a surprise, even he didn't expect it. He said in one of the interviews after the win that he now owes his brother 50 bucks after he won. But why was Riz's win so special?
Riz was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his role as Nasir Khan in The Night Of. The Night Of is a series that shows light on the Islamophobia and xenophobia present in the American "justice" system, through showing how Nasir was sent to prison and was on trial for a crime he didn't commit just because he was a non-white Muslim, and he fitted the profile.
The series also shows the media and its ability to create a massive public panic. It also shows how white people want to act as our saviors but only if it fits them through the character of Alison Crowe played by actress Glenne Headly, who was amazing in her portrayal of the character, by the way. So, for an actor with Ahmed in his name playing a Pakistani Muslim in a show talking about Islamophobia, it is really hard to expect he would win, especially when competing against four white, popular men in Trump's America where a muslim-ban is a thing people had to protest against (I know Pakistan is not on the list). Also, Riz's parents are Pakistani immigrants who immigrated to England. So, a Muslim brown son of immigrants working and winning an Emmy in Trump's America is a big slap on the face to Donald Trump and his policies.
Now, let's talk about the man. Riz has always been spoken about the importance of diversity and positive representation in TV and film. Even when he was asked about his win in the Emmy press room interview, he said: "I don't know if any one person's win of an award or one person snagging one role or one person doing very well changes something that's a systemic issue of inclusion." He also talked about Ed Skrein stepping down from the role of Hellboy. Riz has also been very outspoken on Islamophobia in both a general context and a personal one. He is also known to turn down any role that has to do with the stereotypical profiles of both Muslims and South Asians; such as terrorists and taxi drivers. So, the Emmy isn't just important and boosting to his career, it is just as boosting and important to his activism and cause. You can watch Riz Ahmed giving a great speech about the importance of diversity when he was invited to the House of Commons below.
Riz Ahmed is not the light in the end of the tunnel, he literally took out a huge fire torch midway of the tunnel and is leading youth throughout it. As a young Muslim writer, I am very glad to witness someone as great as Riz Ahmed breaking barriers, and I am proud to consider him one of my heroes. I hope his fire torch keeps glowing brighter and stronger each day, and never be put down. May Allah bless Riz, and everyone like him.