“Taking the opportunity to uplift him and to tell him he mattered, he was OK and accept him — I hope that we do a better job of that,” he said, instead of focusing on “the details that make us all different.”

Ali was born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore and raised as a Christian in Oakland, California.

“My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 yrs ago,” he added.

“But I tell you now, you put things to the side, and I’m able to see her and she’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown. And that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important.”

When Ali was in graduate school he began to “question the divinity of Jesus” and “why I was taught, told, and instructed to pray to Jesus, instead of God,” he wrote in a book titled, “Short Stories by American Converts to Islam.”

Ali said he was introduced to a mosque by a friend and was interested in converting. But still, he had some reservations.

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