Published in Malay Mail Online
Earlier this week, American actor Mahershala Ali bagged the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his critically-acclaimed role in 2016’s Moonlight.
Immediately he was celebrated across the world as “the first Muslim to win an Oscar.”
But not everybody saw it that way. As covered by several news outlets, there were scores of Muslims online who denounced the honour.
Their reason? Ali is a member of the Ahmadiyya community, a much maligned religious movement that mainstream Muslims count as infidels and apostates. Ali, to them, is not a real Muslim.
The most public of this response was by the Pakistani envoy to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, who deleted her tweet moments after she wrote “That’s a first” celebrating Ali’s win.
Lodhi was perhaps only protecting her reputation. After all, despite having the largest population of Ahmadis in the world, Pakistan is perhaps their worst hell. In 1984, Pakistan implemented Ordinance XX, effectively barring Ahmadis from practising their faith.
The ordinance kicked off decades of persecution against Ahmadis, and forced the community to move its headquarters to London in exile.