Mahershala Ali: First Muslim Actor to Win Oscar

Awarded Hollywood's highest honor for his role in 'Moonlight'

With his win for portraying a drug dealer with a father’s heart in the film “Moonlight,” Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to take home an acting Oscar.

Ali, 43, won in the Best Supporting Actor category Sunday, topping much bigger names, including Jeff Bridges, who was nominated for “Hell or High Water,” and Dev Patel, nominated for “Lion.”

“I just remember these tears coming down my face, and it just really connected to my spirit in a way that felt like I needed to pay attention.”

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Ali discussed his 1999 conversion to Islam earlier this year on the radio show “Fresh Air,” describing to host Terry Gross his visit to a Philadelphia mosque with his future wife.

“And I just had such a strong reaction to the prayer,” he said. “I felt really grounded at that time, and so to be in this prayer and the imam is doing the prayer in Arabic, and I don’t understand a word of Arabic. But I just remember these tears just coming down my face, and it just really connecting to my spirit in a way that felt like I needed to pay attention to that.”

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Four days before receiving his Oscar, Ali and his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, welcomed their first child, a daughter.

This article originally appeared in Religion News Service.

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