While attending the CAA Amplify conference in Ojai, California last week, the 36-year-old British actor, who is of Pakistani descent, opened up about the real reason he had been unable to attend the fan gathering in April.
According to IndieWire, Star Wars Celebration posted at the time that the actor, who played Bodhi Rook in Star Wars: Rogue One, had been unable to attend “due to circumstances beyond his control.”
Ahmed, who has spoken out in the past about how frequently he gets searched at airports because of the color of his skin, used the incident to address the ongoing problem of Islamophobia.
“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,” he told the crowd, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
During the event he also spoke about how he no longer wants to have to change the way he speaks or acts in order to avoid being discriminated against.
“How I do what I do is because like all of you here, I’m a code-switcher,” he remarked. “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.”
PEOPLE has reached out to Homeland Security for comment.
Last year, the actor, who is also a rapper known as Riz MC, opened up about how appearing in Rogue One had little effect on how frequently he got stopped at airports.
“For example, I was getting on the plane to do the Star Wars press tour, I’d be stopped for a second time, patted down, searched,” Ahmed explained during an interview with Sunday Today. “At this point, the guys searching me are, like, they’re fans of mine.”
“So, they’re quoting rap lyrics back at me about being searched at the airport while they’re searching me at the airport and then they’re asking me for selfies,” Ahmed said.