The 69th annual Emmy Awards last night were all about Riz Ahmed: a working-class man from London who became the first actor of Asian and Muslim descent to take home the Emmy for best actor for his role as Nasir Khan from the HBO drama The Night Of.
He picked up the trophy over Benedict Cumberbath, Robert De Niro, Ewan McGregor, Geoffrey Rush, and John Turturro.
Only one week after the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it feels particularly noteworthy that a man whose chances of being “randomly” picked up and searched in an airport in the Western world remain sky-high was instead bestowed with a gold trophy.
Against a frightening backdrop of Islamophobia, where Muslims in the UK experience a nightmarish reality mirroring that of the protagonist played by Ahmed – what with a 326 per cent increase in anti-Islamophobic attacks and recently acid attacks to boot – this was a truly a real victory worth celebrating.
Riz Ahmed is the glass ceiling-shattering actor who has finally started to transcend “diversity”, that pithy word that tastes like ashes in the mouths of those starving for stories that echo their lived realities. And yet for some obscure reason, the Midas touch Riz Ahmed possesses across the pond doesn’t seem to be casting a spell on British directors in the UK.