British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed has been getting quite the media attention for his hit TV shows and movies, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been a victim of racial profiling at airports.
Recently, the star revealed he continues to be stopped, searched, and interrogated at airports because of his race.
Two years ago, Ahmed made history after becoming the first man of Asian descent to take home an Emmy for his role as Nasir "Naz" Khan on HBO's series The Night Of. But, racial profiling knows no fame, and no shame as well.
"[Hasan Minhaj] can win a Peabody, I can win an Emmy, Ibtihaj Muhammad can go to the Olympics, but some of these obstacles are systemic and we can't really face them alone, we need your help," Ahmed said in a summit last week.
At CAA's Amplify leadership summit in June, Ahmed shed light on the fact that he's been discriminated against multiple times in the past 15 years due to his race.
He then spoke of a more recent incident that took place in April. Prior to a Star Wars convention, Homeland Security blocked Ahmed from boarding a plane. Thus, his appearance at the Star Wars Celebration Chicago was ultimately canceled.
The actor used the afternoon session at the summit to discuss the Muslim representation (or misrepresentation) in Hollywood and his battle against discrimination in the public sphere.
"I'm basically here to ask for your help, because it's really scary to be a Muslim right now, super scary," he said.
"I've often wondered, is this going to be the year when they round us up, if this is going to be the year they put Trump's registry into action. If this is going to be the year they ship us all off," he added.
He then went on to demand proper representation of Muslims - be it with research, data, or institutions. He also confessed to "code-switching," a term used to describe situations in which speakers consciously change the way they speak when surrounded by certain people.
"How I do what I do is because like all of you here, I'm a code-switcher," he said. "We all know how to change the way we talk, the way we dress, the way we walk as we enter one room or another. We all know how to navigate terrain that isn't of our own making. That's how I can do it, but that's not why I do what I do. The why is because I don't want to have to code-switch anymore."
Ahmed has always been an advocate for Muslims
Ahmed is a major advocate for Muslims and often highlights the stereotypical way Muslims and other minority groups are portrayed by Hollywood.
A couple of years ago, Ahmed talked about being offered a number of "terrorist" roles when he started out his acting career.
"There was a lot of, like, Terrorist No. 3 stuff — I just made a decision I wasn't going to do it. I thought, 'I'd rather be broke'," Ahmed said in 2017.
He explained that while a lot of his early projects deal with issues around the war on terror or Islamophobia (The Road to Guantanamo, The Path to 9/11, Four Lions), they also engage with them in creative ways - ways Ahmed hopes can help "move us forward rather than doubling down on lazy stereotypes."
Despite the difficulties, Ahmed has found significant success in television and film; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is just one example.