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Muslim Moonlight Star Calls for Religious Acceptance at SAG Awards

Moonlight

Mahershala Ali gave a timely and stirring speech at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The actor was honored Sunday for Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in Moonlight. In the film, Ali portays a drug dealer and mentor of Chiron, a black gay youth who is bullied for being different.

In his acceptance speech — which came in the wake of an executive order from President Trump banning refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations — Ali advocated for acceptance over belligerence.

"When we get caught up in the minutiae and the details that make us all different, I think there's two ways of seeing that," Ali said at the ceremony. "There's the opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique. And then there's an opportunity to go to war about it and say that this person is different from me, I don't like you, let's battle." 

Ali, who proudly declared, "I am Muslim," said his mother, a minister, "didn't do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted." Yet they learned to "put things to the side," and now, "we love each other."

This weekend, thousands rushed to airports across the United States to protest the ban on immigrants and refugees. Human rights and LGBT leaders blasted it as "un-American."

The merits of acceptance and diversity became a running theme at the SAG Award speeches, with actors like Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Fences' Viola Davis, The Crown's John Lithgow, and the casts of Stranger Things and Hidden Figures all advocating for the power of unity over division.

Sarah Paulson, winning for her performance as Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, also advised viewers to donate to the ACLU, the legal nonprofit advocating for detainees as well as civil liberties more broadly. The group announced it had received $19.4 million in donations since Saturday.

Beloved by critics, Moonlight received eight nominations from the Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, yet lost to Hidden Figures.

Watch Ali's speech below.

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