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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Wrestling With Prejudice
February 5, 2005 by Patrick Guthrie


With the changing standards of what is and is not acceptable discourse concerning race, ethnicity, religion, and the like, pop culture has had to change as well. Certain films have been removed from release, and others have been updated to accommodate these modern ideals. However, many things have been slow to change with these new standards, and I am writing this as a means to accost something that has preferred to live in the past: wrestling. So I am going to take the bulk of this article to discuss the latest in the long history of ethnocentric behavior, the character of Muhammad Hassan.

When I saw the first promo for Hassan's character, I was completely caught off guard. It seemed that the angry, screaming Arab was replaced with a man who said that he wanted to work hard to show Americans that not all Arab-Americans are radical. I thought it amazing that the WWE (responsible for the Iron Sheik) had actually acted sensitively to a minority race. I thought it too good to be true that they hadn't tried a cop-out heel act for Hassan to catch some easy heat. And damn it, it was. After a few promos I began to wonder who this Arab-American dude screaming about how Americans screwed over his people was. I knew he did a mean impression of Muhammad Hassan, though.

So WWE did catch the easy heat, and involved (because I think it's over) Hassan in a crap storyline with Jim "Austin! Austin! Austin!" Ross and Jerry "I hope we get to see some puppies" Lawler, and played the easy heat up like mad. Thus another potential role model for young Arab-Americans is replaced by by a negative stereotype.

I have watched and enjoyed wrestling since before I could walk, and spend a lot of time on the subject, but as much as I love it, this is a major problem. I'm not attempting to be heavy-handed (and I hope I'm not acting like it) but I'm just discussing something important to me. Thank you to all who have read my first article, and if enough people enjoyed it, maybe I'll write another.

by Patrick Guthrie..


Daniel Blake wrote:
I think this is a very cheap storyline. Still so close to 9/11, the WWE knew they could stick an Arab wrestler with a towl on his head out there, and he would draw instant heat. From what I have seen of him, Hassan is great on the mic and could be so much more. I think, in the last few years, with the un-americans, La Resistance, and now Hassan and Davari it's time to put the anti-american characters on the back burner for awhile and come up with some new, fresh storylines.
Johnny Speckman wrote:
Okay, wow. First of all give yourself a pat on the back because other then my brother and I you are the only Hassan fan out there. But where you lost interest i focus of everything else that happens on RAW. I anxiously wait for RAW so that i can press the record button on my remote because i know i'm going to get one of the best heel promos out there. Last night however i was dissapointed to see that Hassan did not show up in Japan. I thought for a second then realized that now he has even more to complain about on the next installment of RAW.

I believe that the early stages of the Lawler Hassan fued were the greatest things WWE has ever done. I have them all of tape and watch them constantly. Hassan has such passion for his character and he follows a cardnial rule of Micheal Hayes's adapted by Mick Foley. A bad guy has to believe that what he is saying is right no matter how screwed up his logic is. He must also touch upon a real emotion. Hassan does all of this with amazing skill. If you cant respect the work that he is doing for the business then i dont consider you a true wrestling fan even if you did like it before you could walk. Hell even Raven likes the Hassan character and Raven is the hardest wrestler to please.

Yes Hassan was just used to get some easy heat but i must say hes doing better then La Resistance and the Un-Americans ever did. This one man gets more heat them most of the heels on RAW combined. Hassan is doing his job and i see great things from him in the future.
Brad Dykens wrote:
I'm also a big Muhammad Hassan fan -- mark me down for #4!
Carl Wigglesorth wrote:
I hope this is not censored Because although I'm from England it is not an Anti-American Slur. The heat Mohammed Hassan achieves from his promo's plays ideally into the personalities of the American public, because in my opinion any word uttered against The US or even the flag is seen as either racist or unpatriotic. Although the idea of the "character" is wrong (and wrong with a capital WR). The views that are expressed by him are of a valid point in the eyes of someone without allegiance to the flag. I know this column is not exactly rasslin based but in heart, it is a plea to people to just stop and listen before the boo's to an apt political view in a place not renowned for its politics. Plus one of the hottest new talents in WWE for a while
D.J. Kellogg wrote:
I think the only bad thing about Muhammed Hassan's character is that the Iron Sheik (March 15, 1943 -2003) isn't still here to be his mentor. Think about it from a professional standpoint. Sure things aren't like the '80s and '90s and the upper ups are biased towards individuals but if WWE can put all favoritism aside Muhammad Hassan could get a chance to run with the ball and be a heel champion just like the Sheik was when he got the WWF title in 1983. Sgt. Slaughter's only World title came in the WWF in 1991 when in 1990 around the time of Golf War Slaughter became an honorary Iraqi and Arab sympathizer. Now granted guys like Sheik and Slaughter don't get chances anymore but if Vince Mcmahon is willing to treat Hassan as a serious force then I think his character is a fine idea. With the line between good guy and bad guy blurring Muhammad Hassan will of course get more heat because the fans see no appealing rebel qualities (like Austin) or swaggering coolness (like Razor Ramón) in him. At WrestleMania X7 Sheik wasn't booed because 9/11 was only a year or so before. Know one booed Lance Storm for singing the anthem with all the other guys on Smack down circa Sept. 12, 2001. La Résistance needs as much fan feedback as possible but WWE should be willing to make them the top heels in a serious tag team division. I think if Muhammad Hassan's character actually leads somewhere then I'm behind it.

P.S. How many of you all even knew he is real an Italian"
Brad Dykens wrote:
Are you implying the Iron Sheik is dead" Cause he's not... He'll be at Wrestlemania to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Besides, if you think about it, their gimmicks are very different. Iron Sheik was Iranian who thought America was bad. Muhammad Hassan is Arab-american who is disgruntled by the way he is treated in his own country..
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