Published January 13, 2015
A company that organizes wrestling entertainment has agreed to remove an Arab-American character from a popular television show after receiving hundreds of complaints about an episode that aired the day of the deadly London bombings.
World Wrestling Entertainment (search) said it would no longer feature Muhammad Hassan on its "SmackDown!" program, which draws more than 5 million viewers a week.
Hassan will be featured Sunday on a pay-per view event. Beyond that, his future is uncertain. The WWE's Web site said the character "has taken a leave of absence from SmackDown."
"We asked them to remove it because we thought that was the right thing to do," said Joanna Massey, a spokeswoman for UPN, the station that airs the show.
During the episode, five Hassan henchmen in ski masks and camouflage ran into the ring to beat up his rival, who had defeated Hassan's sidekick. The men then carried Hassan's sidekick over their heads, which to some evoked a martyr's funeral.
There was not time for UPN to edit the program so they opted to put up an advisory to parents because of the bombings, said Gary Davis, a WWE spokesman.
Hassan, a character introduced last November and played by Mark Copani (search), grows up in Detroit as a typical American. But after the Sept. 11, 2001 (search) terrorist attacks, he believes he is treated differently by his fellow Americans and feels alienated.
"The whole point of the story line and this character was to point out the injustices Arab-Americans have suffered since 9-11," Davis said.
But the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (search) objected to the character. One of its campaigns resulted in nearly 500 complaints sent to WWE, a spokeswoman said.
"The character deals with a very sensitive issue," said Siwar Bandar, a spokeswoman for the committee. "However, he does so in a context that is violent, that is turning his back on America."
Davis, the WWE spokesman, called Hassan "an interesting character."
"This was an unfortunate sequence of events," he said. "Some people drew the conclusion these people were terrorists even though they were not terrorists."