On the first day of Star Wars Celebration Chicago this past April, it was suddenly announced that Riz Ahmed – who played Imperial courier-turned Rebel hero Bodhi Rook in Rogue One – had to cancel his appearance at the convention. Now, the actor’s revealed why, and it’s another reflection of being a minority attempting to travel in the U.S.
As THR reports, speaking recently at CAA’s Amplify leadership summit – which examines issues pertaining to diversity, treatment of minorities, and multicultural issues in both politics and the sports, entertainment, and tech industries – Ahmed brought up his appearance (or rather lack thereof) at Celebration Chicago.
#StarWarsCelebration Update: We're so sorry to announce that due to circumstances beyond his control, Riz Ahmed will be canceling his full appearance. Attendees can use their current Riz Ahmed tickets to exchange at the Topps Help Desk throughout the weekend.
– StarWars Celebration (@SW_Celebration) April 12, 2019
He revealed that the reason he couldn’t attend as planned is that the Department of Homeland Security stopped him from getting on his flight – far from the first time the actor has been impeded in travel efforts in his career:
[Hassan 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. 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.
Muslim travellers have long faced prejudice during air travel, the spectre of the war on terror (and prejudices stoked long before it) still being felt in the years since the 9/11 terror attacks, but Federal scrutiny has spiked under the Trump administration as the President has spent much of his tenure seeking to instate travel bans on people from Muslim-majority countries.
Ahmed’s case is not the first time an artist travelling to meet fans at a convention has found themselves turned away by Federal agents because of scrutiny and discrimination like this, and sadly, it’s unlikely to be the last while President Trump is in office (and, even sadder, likely beyond even that). And if someone as recognisable as Ahmed – literally a main character in a Star Wars movie – is being stopped for the simple reason of being a minority, how many untold stories of this prejudice are out there?
Gizmodo's reached out Lucasfilm for commentary on Ahmed’s revelation, and will update this post if we hear back.