Riz Ahmed shared the lesson he learned over 15 years of being consistently stopped, searched and interviewed at airports. All these ‘random searches’ as a brown man made him realize that:
“The easiest way to win elections today is with Islamophobia.”
The British-Pakistani Emmy Award winner pointed out how airport security now ask him for selfies as they go through his stuff looking for traces of explosives.
Anti-Muslim Prejudice is Growing
The growing scale of anti-Muslim prejudice in some western countries is alarming.
In his address at CAA Amplify Conference, The Night Of star pointed out how despite Muslim contributions to society, a pattern of systemized prejudice is in place against them.
“Hasan Minhaj could win a Peabody, I could win an Emmy, Ibtihaj Muhammad could win the Olympics, but some of these obstacles are systemic and we can’t really face them alone.”
The Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor pointed out how individual success can act as motivation. Yet with systematic racism, they are always at a disadvantage.
“The efforts of individual artists or storytellers may be bold, they may be progressive, they may act as beacons of hope for other people, but in the face of institutional prejudice and institutionalized obstacles, systemic obstacles, our efforts can sometime still fall flat”
Riz Ahmed even pointed out how things are taking a turn for the worse, as ‘it’s really scary to be a Muslim right now,’.
“We need your help. I’m basically here to ask for your help. It’s really scary to be a Muslim right now… Super scary. I often wonder if this is going to be the year they round us up, if this is the year they’re going to put Trump’s Muslim registry into action, if this is going to be the year they ship us all off.”
The Venom antagonist called on high-powered industry execs, talent, Wall Streeters and politicos to improve Muslim representation. Not just in the media but with research and data.
Riz Ahmed called for creating a framework, and building institutions that people like him and Hasan Minhaj can support.
The actor made a really good point. When Islamophobia is a systemized racism fueled by presenting selective numbers in a certain context, it will take systematic awareness to counter it.
“The representation of Muslims on screen — that feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded.”
Riz Ahmed pointed out this is not just a matter of fair opportunities, but safety as well. Islamophobia threatens the safety of Muslims.
“I think lives are quite literally at stake here.”
As for the achievements he managed to bag amid this systematic racism, Riz explained that getting to this point required ‘code-switching‘. Basically, Riz had to conform to the dominant language and manner of speaking so that he could avail opportunities that are usually denied to people from minority groups.
He doesn’t want to have to do that anymore. After all, religious and cultural expression is a fundamental right.
“How I do what I do is because like all of you here, I’m a code-switcher,……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.”