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Riz Ahmed makes history as first Muslim to pick up best actor Oscar nomination

British performer in running for historic award for his role in Sound of Metal, a story about a drummer who must come to terms with his failing hearing
Riz Ahmed has been vocal about his struggles against being typecast as a terrorist in movies (AFP)

British actor Riz Ahmed has been nominated for a best actor Oscar at the 93rd Academy Awards due to be held on 26 April, becoming the first Muslim actor to be in the running for the prize.

Ahmed, who has previously appeared in Nightcrawler, Venom and Four Lions, got the nomination for his role as a drummer dealing with the loss of his hearing in Darius Marder's Sound of Metal.

The London-born 38-year-old is also up for a Bafta in the best actor in a leading role category for the same movie, as well as a separate nomination as producer for the drama Mogul Mowgli.

American actor Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar, receiving the supporting actor award in 2019 for his role in the movie Moonlight.

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The Road to Guantanamo

Ahmed, is vocal about his struggle against being typecast as a terrorist, as well as his experience, earlier in his career, where he was selected for additional screening at US airports.

Writing in the anthology The Good Immigrant in 2016, Ahmed said an interrogator at one airport asked him: "Do you know anyone who wants to do harm to the United States?"

The actor, who raps as part of the duo Swet Shop Boys, under the name Riz MC, addressed the incident and others like it in the song called T5.

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"Oh no, we're in trouble, TSA always wanna burst my bubble, Always get a random check when I rock the stubble," the track goes. 

Having graduated from the University of Oxford in 2003 with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Ahmed got his first break as an actor in the 2006 movie The Road to Guantanamo, playing one of a trio of British men of South Asian origin, who were arrested in Afghanistan by American forces after the US invasion and imprisoned in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

It was a role that caught the attention of British security forces, who detained and questioned the actor under the Terror Act in 2006.

Ahmed says he was denied access to a lawyer by the authorities, who asked: "Did you become an actor mainly to do films like this, to publicise the struggles of Muslims?"

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