There was supposed to be one more familiar face at Chicago’s Star Wars Celebration convention: Riz Ahmed.
The Rogue One: A Star Wars Story star, who played Bodhi Rook in the prequel film, was all set to attend the massive fan convention earlier this year but the actor is speaking up about the frustrating reason why he ended up not being able to attend.
During CAA’s Amplify leadership summit focusing on diversity and multicultural issues across entertainment, sports, tech and politics that occurred this week in Ojai, Calif., Ahmed led an afternoon panel about Muslim representation in Hollywood and opened up about how he has to fight against discrimination on a daily basis in his real life, especially at airports where he has been constantly stopped and searched because of his race. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ahmed said that it happened again as he was traveling to Chicago for the Star Wars convention when Homeland Security “stopped him from boarding the plane.”
“[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. “I’m basically here to ask for your help, because it’s really scary to be a Muslim right now. Super scary. 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.”
Ahmed then went on to discuss how the “easiest way to win elections today is with Islamophobia,” which is why Muslim representation in media and entertainment is so crucial.
“How I do what I do is because like all of you here, I’m a code-switcher,” Ahmed 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 is a trailblazer when it comes to onscreen representation — he won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie at the 69th annual Emmy Awards for his starring role in HBO’s The Night Of, making him the first man of South Asian descent to win at the Emmys and only the second Asian star to ever take home a trophy at the ceremony, following Archie Panjabi for The Good Wife in 2010. He used the platform of his acceptance speech to once again speak up about an important issue.
“If this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our society, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that’s something,” he said.