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Cashing in on 9/11 wounds

Is it just me or has other Muslim World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) fans been feeling like they are being targeted through WWE programming especially for the last few months! Just to be on the safe side, I went over and asked a few friends about this. "As WWE has always been a popular medium to the younger generation, it is currently being used to be justify and further glorify the actions of the Bush administration," said Tanim, an all-time Stone Cold Steve Austin and therefore wwe fan.

"I am sickened by the introduction of characters like Muhammad Hassan and Khosrow Daivari, who are portraying Muslims as snobbish brutes and also cheaters," said Imrul Chowdhury, who rarely missed an episode of WWE Raw or Smackdown over the past 11 years.

For those of you who has not been in touch with wwe for the last year or more, Muhammad Hassan and Khosrow Daivari happen to be two heels whom viewers just love to hate.

Hassan and Daivari are posing as two Arab-Americans (at least that was their gimmick) believed that since 9/11, they are being treated differently by their fellow Americans. The two of them soon learnt that the discrimination is due to their Arab background. This has driven them to embrace their Arab roots, further separating him from his fellow Americans.

Hassan and Daivari debuted on the November 1st episode of wwe RAW, where they shocked the entire world with their so-called anti-American sentiments.

Khosrow Daivari seemed to translate everything that Hassan said in English into Arabic and that further aided wwe to develop the 'heel' impression over wwe fans throughout the world.

Hassan tried to portray himself as a Muslim through the Muslim prayer stances during his ring entrance and occasional references to ALLAH immediately after his debut. Even his theme song resembled the Muslim call to prayer. The references to ALLAH were soon cut down due to Arab-American complaints but the praying stances and the theme song still continued.

But despite all these, wwe authorities paid a deaf ear to the complaints of American and other Muslims all over the world against these publicity stunts.

Anti-Muslim sentiments in wwe fan following were soon propelled through the aired activities of these two characters. But wwe loved the characters as it was boosting their ratings.

Furthermore, after being undefeated for quite a long time (apparently the characters always cheated to win) Hassan and Daivari were pitted in a tag-team match against the all-time legend Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels. Now, despite what wwe would want their viewers to believe the entire US knows that Shawn Michaels is a 'born-again Christian' while Hulk Hogan was always the 'All-American Wrestler'.

In a way, the match seemed to be an allegory to most viewers as the Great American war on terror. And what a co-incidence, the middle-aged Hogan and Michaels were even able to beat these two young, athletic and well-built superstars!

It is common sense that most US, UK, Australian and Canadian wwe viewers, rarely exposed to Arabs and Muslims, will bear the negative impression about them through the activities and views expressed through these two characters.

But wwe persisted on its obnoxious story-line and continued with these characters despite the numerous complaints from Arab-Americans and Muslims alike.

The organization finally opened their eyes due to events following the first terror attack in London.

As the story went, Theodore Long, General Manager of WWE Smackdown put Muhammad Hassan in a match against The Undertaker at the Great American Bash and Daivari in a match that night against the Undertaker, on the episode of SmackDown! taped July 5, 2005. Daivari was defeated easily by Undertaker but Hassan began to pray on the ramp and summoned five masked men to the ring. The men were clad in black T-shirts complemented by black gloves and army boots. Armed with clubs and a piano wire, Hassan and the masked men beat up the Undertaker and Hassan put him in the Camel Clutch. Hassan even imitated a chop before the Undertaker's senseless head, which unerringly looked like a beheading. Afterward, the masked men lifted Daivari above their heads and carried him away in a manner evoking the common Muslim treatment of a martyr.

Problems occurred when the July 7, 2005 London bombings took place two days later, hours before the episode was scheduled to air. UPN opted to show the controversial imagery unedited in America and on The Score in Canada (a parental advisory warning was shown several times during the broadcast). But the portion was entirely edited from the Australian and UK broadcasts.

But this development in the storyline caused a media uproar and criticisms were soon published in the New York Post, TV Guide, Variety, and other major media outlets.

In response to the criticisms, UPN, the airing network for SmackDown!, decided not to air Hassan's character on its network that week.

Hassan's promo to the live crowd of SmackDown! on July 14 , was edited from that episode by UPN but WWE decided to host the video of the segment on its official website. In the segment, Hassan, in character, claimed that he is an Arab-American and that Americans were at fault by assuming him to be a terrorist. Despite being in character, he did criticise the media for their 'unjust' attitude toward his actions.

Hassan's absence was explained by a statement delivered by his "lawyer", which said that Hassan refused to appear on the show until that month's pay-per-view event, Great American Bash due to the way he had been treated by the media and WWE fans, on the episode of Smackdown! aired on July 14.

UPN later ordered WWE to keep Hassan off of their network later, effectively removing him from SmackDown! This 'unfortunate' development put wwe writers in a predicament, as they had already booked Hassan as the victor in his #1 Contender's match against the Undertaker at The Great American Bash. As such, Hassan was to meet the current champion Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam. With bleak chances of UPN withdrawing their orders there was absolutely no chance of having Hassan to wrestle on SmackDown!. Therefore, the Undertaker was booked to win the match at The Great American Bash and also face Batista at Summerslam.

At The Great American Bash 2005 already aired in the USA and only last week in Bangladesh, The Undertaker 'Last Rided' Hassan through an open stage ramp onto a concrete floor. The fall had 'hurt Hassan badly' according to wwe official web-site and he had to be rushed to a nearby medical facility. Fellow fan, this is a classic attempt at killing a storyline and thus a character, which wwe always successfully accomplishes (Remember: 'Wildman' Marc Mero, Jeff Jarett and Jeff Hardy)

The Smackdown! episode which followed the pay-per-view event had Long announcing that Hassan would no longer be allowed to participate on Smackdown!. Apparently, Hassan had declared before his match that he would no longer appear on the program if the Undertaker defeats him.

So who is Muhammad Hassan? Well, his real name is Mark Copani and even though he was born in Amman Jordan, he was raised in Syracuse, New-York. Despite his claim to be an Arab-American and his Muslim 'wannabe' attitude, Copani is a Buddhist in real-life.

Furthermore, the 'foreign tongue' used by Daivari, which most of you fans believe to be Arabic, is actually Persian. Khosrow Daivari is the actual Arab-American of the two.

But I am still sceptic about whether wwe will really learn something after the whole Hassan ordeal. The organization always seemed to hold a grudge against the Middle-East and was ready to pat the ruling administration in case of wars against any country from the Middle-Eastern region.

Fans would probably remember Wrestlemania VII of 1991, when the so-called 'All-American superstar' Hulk Hogan (babyface) defeated Sergeant Slaughter who sympathized Saddam Hussain and strongly negated the American views toward the dictator at the moment. Always accompanied by the Iron Sheikh, another Middle Eastern heel at the time, Sgt. Slaughter was 'the American Saddam'.

And only a few years back, when President Bush had announced the ultimatum to Iraq, wwe had a flop storyline, where the baby-face Scott Steiner, a well-built wrestler went head-to-head against a heel who happened to be a Harvard graduate and also opposed the US war against Iraq. In a way, wwe portrayed that anybody who did not want the war was a geek and not half as macho as those who were ready to kick Saddam's butt.

There was also a tag-team allegedly from France who were booed by the audience at WWE events, immediately after France denied to join the alliance against Iraq in 2002.

Muslims and Middle-Eastern citizens all over the world, can only hope that wwe does not come up with another storyline or more characters in the future, which will degrade and establish negative impressions about Middle-Eastern and Muslim morals and values like Hassan, the Iron Sheikh and Sgt. Slaughter in the past.

By Sayed Tasfin Chowdhury

The lady at the railway station

I was fourteen years old when my father thought I was old enough to travel to Sylhet by myself. My mother (if she was alive) I am sure would frown upon his decision. I sat alone in complete solitary on the railway platform waiting for the train to Dhaka to come and take me to my boarding school.

To keep myself busy I watched people in and out of commute and with that watched sellers selling candies, paper, cigarettes and other goods. I was sitting beside a shoe-polish man, listening to the melodious bangla song he was singing.

I admired his beautiful voice. Feeling lonely and hungry the smell of jalabis, samomas softly stole my focus. Suddenly out of nowhere I was gently tapped on my shoulder, a cold shiver ran down my spine as I turned I saw a beautiful lady in a light yellow sari. She had brown eyes, black hair, and almost looked like an angel.

Sweat ran down in small rivulets over my goose bumps, I was dumbfounded, shaking and white with fear. She suddenly spoke in a very kind and polite and airing voice. "Are you all alone my boy," the lady asked."Yes madam," I replied in a low voice. "I see, are you not bored or frightened by the loneliness?" she asked in a very concerned tone. I said "No, I am a brave boy and find ways to keep myself preoccupied". Then she asked sweetly "What is your name?" "My name is Rahul Khanna son of….." She stopped me mid sentence and asked, "Are you hungry?" "Oh yes, I'm starving" I replied with a gasp even though I wanted to say "no".

She took me by the hand told the shoe-polisher to take care of the suitcases, and led me away.

I got extremely scared as several thoughts of peril ran through my mind. Shortly after we came to a halt in front of a café, we took a seat by the window. She caringly asked, "Rahul what would you like to eat?" In a very shy voice I replied, "Anything would do". The waiter took our order and surprisingly enough ordered my favorite snacks. The food was served almost immediately and without even washing my hands I began to eat as if I hadn't for twenty days.

"Eat slowly, Rahul or you will feel sick" she said and took a samosa in her hand to feed me and for a moment I felt my mother's affection as when I looked into her eyes I saw the same motherly love and care that shone through my mother.

Suddenly in a very unruly manner I asked, "Who are you? Do I know you?" She said, "No, we've never met. I m only the lady you met on the railway platform who gave you some love and treated you as her own son."
I was quiet and rather speechless, then I began to tell her everything .Who I was, where I was from, where I study……….I shared everything with just as I had done with my late mother. She listened so intently that I felt as though I've known her for several years.

Around the end of our conversation I heard the train so I washed my hands and rushed out with the kind lady. As I got closer to my boarding post I was feeling very sad. Holding the lady's hand I was amazed to find that her hands had the same soft touch as my mother's. It was soon time to say goodbye so I gave the lady a big hug (the kind a saved especially for my mother) and I climbed aboard.

As I waved to her from my seat she waved back and a trail of warm tears ran both our chicks.

I settled myself in my seat, wiped my tears and tried to compose myself then a sudden urge led me to look out the window again, and I saw the lady in yellow disappear and in her place a fading white figure stood and reassuringly waved back.

By Samiul Islam Rikth


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