A First for Arabs: Rami Malek Wins Oscar for Best Actor

Rami Malek, a first-generation American with Egyptian roots, won the best actor award for his performance in “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.

“We’re longing for stories like this. I am the son of immigrants from Egypt, I’m a first-generation American…my story is being written right now,” the 37-year-old actor said during his acceptance speech. 

The Egyptian Embassy in Washington congratulated Malek after his win. “Rami Malek has made Egyptians happy and proud tonight as the first American-Egyptian to win an Academy Award. Congrats Rami…Egyptians are proud of you,” the Embassy said in a twitter post. 

“I am not surprised that an Egyptian succeeded and achieved an Oscar awards. This becomes attainable since he was provided with a healthy environment that supports creativity and innovative performance,” Ahmed Alim, a film director and critic, told Arab News. 

“Congratulations to Rami Malek…It’s such a great start for a young and talented actor. His origin is Egypt and that’s enough to make us happy, but growing up in the U.S gave him a chance to win,” Sherif Amer, a talk show presenter, said.

Before Playing Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Rami Malek was known for his role in Mr. Robot, though he began his career playing “typical” Middle-Eastern roles.

Malek’s roles in his early career were mainly pharaohs, and terrorists. He began refusing any roles “with any negative portrayal of Arabs” after playing a terrorist in “24.”

“In the past it was like, ‘Oh well, he’s an acceptable terrorist! He’s an accessible terrorist! … But after I did [24] I said to myself, ‘You know what? Bullshit. No more. This is not how I want it.’ …. Any calls that come about playing Arabs or Middle Easterners in a negative light? I don’t need to respond to any of them any more. No more of this,” Malek told GQ Magazine. 

There were other Arab nominees who left without an Oscar: “Capernaum” by Lebanese Nadine Labaki for Best Foreign Film, and “Of Father and Sons” by Syrian Talal Derki for Best Documentary Feature. 

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Sammar Khader

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