Who is Riz Ahmed - First Muslim to bag Best Actor nomination
Riz Ahmed. Photo: Zimbio

Rizwan Ahmed Biography

Riz Ahmed was born on a Wednesday, December 1, 1982 in England. His birth name is Riz Ahmed and he is currently 38 years old. People born on December 1 fall under the zodiac sign of Sagittarius. His zodiac animal is Dog.

Riz MC, is a British Pakistani actor, rapper and activist. As an actor, he won an Emmy Award, out of two Emmy nominations, and was also nominated for a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and three British Independent Film Awards. He was initially known for his work in independent films such as The Road to Guantanamo (2006), Shifty (2008), Four Lions (2010), Trishna (2011), Ill Manors (2012), and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013), before his break-out role in Nightcrawler (2014). In 2016, he starred in Una, Jason Bourne, and as Bodhi Rook in the first Star Wars Anthology film, Rogue One. That year, he also starred in the HBO miniseries The Night Of as Nasir Khan; the show and his performance were critically lauded. At the 2017 Emmy Awards, he received two nominations, for his performance in The Night Of and his guest spot in Girls; he won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for The Night Of, becoming the first Asian and first Muslim to win in the category, the first South Asian male to win an acting Emmy, and the first Muslim and first South Asian to win a lead acting Emmy.

After earning a degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from Christ Church College, University of Oxford, he trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, as reported by Dating Celebs.

Early Life

Ahmed was born in Wembley, London, in 1982, to a British Pakistani family. His parents are of Muhajir background; his grandparents migrated from India to Pakistan during the 1947 partition of India. His father is a shipping broker. His parents moved to England from Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, during the 1970s. He is a descendant of Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman, the first Indian to become the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh during the colonial era. He also composed Urdu poetry, penned some of the first critical articles on Einstein’s theory of relativity, and was related to Mulla Mahmud Jaunpuri (d. 1652), one of the most important philosopher–scientists produced in the region during the Mughal Empire.

Ahmed attended Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood, through a scholarship programme. He graduated from Christ Church, Oxford University, with a degree in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics), which he has said he found to be a bizarre experience. He later studied acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama, as reported by Pakobserver.

Thriving Acting Career

After Riz Ahmed was done with his degree at Oxford, he decided to train in acting; this he did at Central School of Speech and Drama. He eventually got his first role in a film in 2006, playing Shafiq in The Road to Guantanamo which placed him on the path of success as an actor.

Although the years that followed saw his career slowly taking off with a few minor roles, Riz landed a notable role in the 2014 thriller, Nightcrawler. The actor was cast opposite seasoned actor Jake Gyllenhaal and for his performance, he was on the nomination list of several awards that year. His character in the film was Rick, the assistant to a journalist who goes to any lengths to get a good story. Interestingly, Riz Ahmed was one of the seventy-five people who auditioned for the role. It was also gathered that one of the ways he prepared for his role was by spending time with homeless people.

Another major role Ahmed has had is that of Bodhi Rook in the 2016 Star Wars film, Rogue One. He was also cast in the anti-hero film, Venom, as Carlton Drake. However, the most successful role Riz has had was in the miniseries, The Night Of. The seasoned actor played Nasir “Naz” Khan and won several major film awards for his performance, including a Primetime Emmy Award. This saw him become the first Muslim and Asian to win an Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. More so, he has won awards for his appearance in III Manors, Shifty, Daytimer, and the comedy series, Girls.

Ahmed acting also extends to stage appearances as he was featured in the play, Gaddafi, organized by the Asian Dub Foundation. Another stage role he has played include Lucius, a serial killer who later became a born-again Christian in the stage production, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, which had Jack William Clift and Thomas Sweatma as its directors. Riz was also cast in the stage play, Prayer Room.

Music Career

Who is Riz Ahmed - First Muslim to bag Best Actor nomination
Riz Ahmed. Photo: Cutacut

Inspired by jungle and hip hop music, his music career began in his mid-teens, appearing on pirate radio and in freestyle rap battles. While at university, Ahmed co-founded the Hit & Run night in Oxford, which has since moved to Manchester and gone on to become one of Manchester’s leading underground music events. At Oxford, he was also part of a 12-person jazz-house/electronica band called Confidential Collective. After graduating, he competed in and won many rap battle competitions. He competed as Riz MC on JumpOff TV’s “Spin the Mic” freestyle rap battle contest in 2006. He beat contestants Stig and Skilla Mic, before a controversial loss to contest winner Whatshisface; according to JumpOff TV, Riz was at a disadvantage due to racial double standards from the crowd.

In 2006, Riz Ahmed recorded a satirical social-commentary rap track entitled “Post 9/11 Blues”, which was leaked by friends and first gained popularity through the internet. The song was initially banned from British airplay because the lyrics were deemed “politically sensitive”, including satirical references to 9/11, terrorism, the post-9/11 climate, the Iraq War, death of Jean Charles de Menezes, MI6, and Belmarsh prison. The resulting press coverage, however, prompted some independent radio stations to play the track. He soon founded his own independent record label, Battered Records, officially releasing “Post 9/11 Blues” for the CD and MP3 formats in August 2006.

Riz Ahmed went on to win Best MC at the 2006 Asian Music Awards. He released his second single in 2007, the garage rap song “People Like People”. He was selected as a BBC Introducing artist in 2007, playing the Glastonbury Festival and the BBC Electric Proms. He opened the Meltdown Festival with Bristol-based trip-hop group Massive Attack at the Royal Festival Hall in 2008 and was appointed ‘Emerging Artist in Residence at the Southbank Centre in London. He played at the London Camp for Climate Action in August 2009.

In 2011, he released his debut album, Microscope, which was re-released with additional remixes in 2012. On 1 December 2011, it was announced that Riz MC had signed to Tru Thoughts, an independent label in Brighton. From Microscope, he released “Sour Times” which was accompanied by a video featuring Scroobius Pip, Plan B, Tom Hardy, and Jim Sturgess. Formed in 2014, Ahmed is half of the hip hop duo Swet Shop Boys along with Heems. Their debut release, Sweat Shop EP, was released in 2014. The group’s debut full-length effort, Cashmere, was released on 14 October 2016 and received critical acclaim.

He was featured on the song “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)” in The Hamilton Mixtape, which topped the Billboard 200 chart. This put him in the unique position of sitting at number-one on both the Billboard 200 album chart and the movie box office chart (with Rogue One) at the same time. At the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), “Immigrants” won the award for Best Fight Against the System, giving him the rare distinction of winning both the Emmy and VMA awards. In 2016, he released the nine-track mixtape, Englistan.

The Riz Test Was Propounded in Honor of the Entertainer’s Muslim Faith and Activism

The multifaceted entertainer is notable as an advocate for Muslims, especially as it regards how they are presented by the entertainment industry. Hence after giving a heart-melting speech about how Muslims are stereotyped in films at the House of Commons in 2017, two men identified as Dr. Sadia Habib and Shaf Choudry who resided in the UK, propounded what we now know as the Riz Test.

The test is divided into 5 parts and its main aim is to know how a character who plays a Muslim role is usually presented. The different sections address issues like Muslims being seen as terrorists, excessively angry, highly superstitious, domineering (for males), oppressed (for females), and posing as threats to the modern way of living.

Many have referred to the test as a way to assess Islamophobia, but the creators have maintained that its sole aim is to engage people and know their thoughts towards Muslims. Ahmed has also shown his support for the idea as he took to Twitter to share that he’s glad about the Riz Test.

Riz Ahmed - The first Muslim to bag Best Actor nomination

British actor and musician Riz Ahmed has become the first Muslim to be nominated for the Academy Award’s Best Actor category for his role in the movie Sound of Metal.

“When you hear your own name, it’s a weird feeling, I just quietly gave thanks and felt some gratitude,” the 38-year-old said after his nomination.

“Everybody on this film was doing it because they wanted to push themselves and go further than they have before. This was all of us trying to see how far could we go.”

The Oscars will be handed out on April 25 in a ceremony that will take place at both the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and, for the first time, at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Neither the form of the ceremony nor a host has been announced.

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