Photo via Flickr Creative Commons by Creep P
After the Sept. 11 attacks, WWE brought in a character named Muhammad Hassan, stereotyping Arab and Muslim Americans. Italian American Marc Copani, who played the role of Muhammad Hassan, says the character would not be appropriate in 2020.
During his WWE career, Copani played the role as Hassan inside and outside of the ring. This led to moments when Copani realized that his character and his outfits stirred fear in other people.
In an interview with Chris Van Vilet, Copani talked about a time when he wore a traditional Arab head garment called a keffiyeh in an airplane. He said multiple people on the plane called their families to tell them they loved them.
He admitted the role was pushed too far.
Copani said Hassan was created to exemplify an Arab American who was upset at the unfair treatment and discrimination he received from other people. However, overtime the character developed into a “more radicalized Muslim and Arab young man, who was lashing out violently,” Copani told Vilet.
A WWE segment with Copani’s character aired the same day of the London bombings on July 7. The skit included The Undertaker, another WWE wrestler, being attacked by five men in ski masks. Hassan’s manager in the show named Shawn Daivari was carried out as if he was killed for his religious beliefs, reported Metro.
The segment aired in America with a content warning, but did not air in the U.K. Muhammad Hassan was removed from television immediately.
In the interview, Copani said he and Hassan’s manager Daivari received a lot of hate from the WWE audience.
“I think it was insensitive… I don’t think that would be fair to portray any Arab American or Muslim American in that way,” Copani said when asked if he could play this kind of role today.
Bleacher Report released an editorial piece commenting on Hassan’s role in WWE and the network’s decisions.
“Let me get this straight: a second class television network that isn’t even in commission anymore ended a Superstar’s career for their own abuse of power over his race? Yeah, that’s not racist at all,” posted Bleacher Report.
Despite being one of the most hated wrestlers on WWE, Copani noted he had the opportunity to work alongside iconic WWE wrestlers and veterans. He is now a school principal.
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