Mahershala Ali Spoke About Persecution and His Muslim Faith in an Emotional SAG Award Speech

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Though Mahershala Ali never mentioned President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban or the recent uptick in reported hate crimes, they seemed to weigh heavy on his mind as he accepted his Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance in a supporting role. “What I think I learned from working on Moonlight is you see what happens when you persecute people,” Ali said. “They fold into themselves. What I was so thankful 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, taking that opportunity to uplift him, and tell him that he mattered and that he was okay and accept him. And I hope that we do a better job of that.”

Ali went on to say that there were two ways of approaching people different from ourselves: the opportunity to see the “textures” of that person and what makes them unique, or to “go to war” over those differences. He then related the experience to his personal life as a converted Muslim. “My mother is an ordained minister,” Ali said. “I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do back flips when I called to tell her that I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, we put things to the side, and I’m able to see her and she’s able to see me, we love each other, the love has grown. And that stuff is minutia — it’s not that important.” Watch the full speech above.

See Mahershala Ali’s Emotional SAG Award Speech