Performing Artist

Riz Ahmed

by Saadiya Nazir from Anaheim, California in United States

152315Riz Ahmed for Dazed Magazine Ahmed is a British-Pakistani actor and rapper who has had a tremendous impact on the global South Asian Muslim community. He began his career starring primarily in independent films and more recently has joined larger scale projects. Some of his bigger roles were featured in the films Nightcrawler (2014), Jason Bourne (2016), Rogue One (2016), and Venom (2018). 

Ahmed started his career in 2006 with the film The Road to Guantanamo which focuses on a true story of three innocent British citizens who were detained in Guantanamo Bay for two years. Ahmed’s career has long been shaped by his cultural and religious identity which has led him to play several characters who have been affected by the War on Terror. In his personal life, Ahmed has revealed that he has been racially profiled through frequent airport security checks while he travels for work. In one incident, Ahmed was returning from a screening of his film, The Road to Guantanamo, when he was detained by airport security and verbally abused because of suspicions of using his acting career as a tool to spread the “Islamic cause.” 

Despite the hardships that Ahmed has faced in his career, he has always remained true to his background and often celebrates it through his music. As a rapper he goes by “Riz MC” and he is also one-half of the rap duo “Swet Shop Boys.” His music often focuses on South Asian empowerment and cultural pride. He was even featured on the Hamilton soundtrack with the song “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done.)” Ahmed has been very outspoken about his political beliefs that advocate for immigrants and people of color. 

Even after success in mainstream films and television shows, Ahmed remains out of mainstream pop culture. He questions this in the Swet Shop Boys song “Anthem” with the lyrics “‘What if I was fairer-skinned, had less of the melanin? Would I get more work or would I not be worth anything? Cause right now I’m the king of my pigeonhole.”’ Even though Ahmed may feel tied down in certain ways, he has had an immense impact with his roles and music because he has shown people of color, particularly South Asian audiences, that there is more room for them in the creative world. As a person of South Asian descent, I rarely saw anyone who looked like me on screen that didn’t reflect harmful stereotypes, but with a rolemodel such as Riz Ahmed, I can believe there are more opportunities that my fellow South Asians and I can go for.

Page created on 7/28/2023 1:51:51 AM

Last edited 8/5/2023 5:05:54 PM

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Bulut, Selim. 6 things that inspired Riz Ahmed’s new album The Long Goodbye. [Online] Available

, . Riz Ahmed Wikipedia. [Online] Available