Riz Ahmed makes history as first Muslim and South Asian to win an acting Emmy

Riz Ahmed speaks out on the “systemic” racism of award ceremonies

British actor and rapper Riz Ahmed made history on Sunday night when he became the first Asian man and first Muslim to take home an Emmy Award for acting at the 69th annual Emmy Awards.

Ahmed, who was born to British Pakistani parents in Wembley, won over Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert De Niro and Ewan McGregor to take home the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category for his performance in The Night Of.

Before him, only one other South Asian star had taken home an acting award from the ceremony — Archie Panjabi, who won an Emmy for her role in “The Good Wife” in 2010.

Riz Ahmed has said that the film and TV industry still has a long way to go in promoting ethnic diversity, despite last night’s Emmys being hailed for choosing a wide range of winners

In a press conference afterwards, Ahmed spoke about the wider implications of him winning an Emmy acting award.

“I don’t know if one person’s win of an award, one person snagging one role, or one person doing very well, changes something that’s a systemic issue of inclusion in this industry,” he said, “I think that’s something that happens slowly, over time. If there’s enough isolated examples of success then maybe the dots start joining up and it’s not as slow a process as it sometimes is.”

“Its always strange reaping the rewards of a story that’s based on real world suffering,” Ahmed said in his acceptance speech. “But if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our society, Islamophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that’s something.”

Ahmed told reporters after the Emmys that “what we’re starting to see is more awareness around how beneficial it can be to tell a diverse range of stories and to tell them in a way that’s authentic.”

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

Tribune International