Ramy Youssef, an Egyptian-American stand-up comedian and writer, won his first Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for his show Ramy. He took no time to process it and instantly thanked God for the award he had just received seconds after he jumped on stage.
"I would like to thank my God. Allahu akbar," he said to the microphone. "Thank you, God."
In his maroon suit and white kicks, Youssef took the stage in excitement for a short celebratory speech, especially that he was the first winner of the night. "This is thanks to God and Hulu," he said, before jokingly telling the audience that he knows they haven't seen his show.
Though he's not the first Muslim or Arab to win a Golden Globe, the award certainly did mean a lot to every Muslim-American feeling represented ... if not, then the two words he used were more than enough.
By casually slipping in those two words, Youssef showed Hollywood what having an uncompromising identity is all about
"Allahu akbar," the common phrase that translates to "God is Great," is normally used by Muslims casually and nonchalantly at numerous instances: during our prayers, when we hear great news, horrible news, and ever so casually when we're getting up from a chair or making our way out.
Because "Allahu akbar" is just that: a phrase used interchangeably when Muslims are praising God, thanking God, or just simply acknowledging the higher power in a given scenario.
The phrase became politically charged, however, when non-Muslims in the West began associating it with terrorism and potential threat. This is exactly why it was so powerful of Youssef to indifferently slip in those two words before translating what they meant to the non-Muslim elite Hollywood audience.
He could have just said "Thank you, God," but he willingly decided to bring back the real meaning of the phrase us Muslims use in our everyday life.
Because whether they like it or not, it's a part of his complex, multifaceted Muslim-American identity, the same one that encouraged him to bring Ramy to life.
"Ramy" is Youssef's take on being a Muslim Egyptian-American millennial
Youssef, who's also co-creator of the comedy Ramy, plays a New Jersey-based character that's loosely based on his own life. The show follows him as he "grapples with his Muslim faith while navigating sex, dating and relationships."
"I'm very thankful to God and my show is about someone who believes in their faith," Youssef said while answering a backstage question about why he decided to thank God during his acceptance speech. "It's part of the DNA of the show."
To Youssef, part of the reason why the show is called Ramy is for viewers to understand that it's a very specific story about one Egyptian family in New Jersey and not something that would "blanket a group of a billion people."
"I really wanted to lead with our problems [as Muslims], and I wanted to lead with the things that people would connect to on a human level," the actor explained at the Golden Globes' backstage interviews. "I turned [things that I struggled with] into something that hopefully could just make people feel a little less lonely."
"It's really amazing for a show of this size to be recognized that way," he added. "I'm just very thankful."