Mahershala Ali is the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar—ever. Mahershala Ali took home the first Oscar of the night, securing the best supporting actor trophy for his role as Juan in Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight." Ali is the first Muslim actor in history to win an Academy Award.
(CNN) - Of all the memorable moments at the Oscars Sunday night, Mahershala Ali's win for best supporting actor marked an especially poignant triumph.
Ali is the first Muslim actor to take home the golden statue. And he comes from a sect of Islam, Ahmadiyya, that has faced persecution and violence.
Ali did not mention his Muslim faith during his Oscars acceptance speech for his role in "Moonlight," in which he plays a kind-hearted Miami drug dealer who becomes a father figure to a boy who is struggling with his sexuality.
But while accepting a Screen Actors Guild Award last month, Ali talked about his conversion to Islam and what it has taught him.
"I think what I've learned from working on 'Moonlight' is we see what happens when you persecute people. They fold into themselves. And what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community," Ali said.
"Taking the opportunity to uplift him and to tell him he mattered, he was OK and accept him -- I hope that we do a better job of that," he said, instead of focusing on "the details that make us all different."