Wrestling While Muslim: How Mustafa Ali Became A WWE Celebrity | AJ+

When I was growing up, I loved wrestling, I loved everything about it One character that reached out through the screen and spoke to me was Brett "The Hitman" Hart

He was that classic good guy and despite his foes using underhanded tactics, he never compromised who he was I was born in Chicago with two older brothers I would make these makeshift wrestling costumes and we'd pretend we're at Wrestlemania But, when I tuned in, anyone of Middle Eastern heritage was always portrayed as the bad guy, the evil foreigner, [Clip]: (yelling in foreign language) the terrorist And I knew I didn't want to do that

The initial stages of my career, I was actually hiding behind a mask to hide who I was But, I was getting frustrated and I wasn't getting better bookings, I wasn't competing at bigger events Several of my friends in the industry kept saying, "You know, now is the time," "you should try out doing an evil character" And so was born Prince Mustafa Ali [Clip]: "Prince Mustafa Ali!" You just add the whole head garb thing, yelling in a foreign language, [Clip]: (yelling in foreign language) My bookings went up

I was getting flown all over the US to compete But something inside of me, there was always an uneasy feeling [Clip]: "What?" [Clip]: "USA! USA!" I remember seeing a young boy, maybe six, seven years old, and as I approached the guard rail, he jumped out of his chair and he put his hands up

And I remember looking into this kid's eyes, and I remember seeing hate, and right then and there it hit me, I was like, "Did I just teach this kid" "to hate people that look like me?" And from that point forward, I created a new character: Mustafa Ali [Clip]: "Mustafa Ali!" Mustafa Ali is who I wanted to see when I was growing up I'm not wearing anything on my head, I'm not saying anything in Arabic, I'm just gonna come out as Mustafa Ali A lot of promoters were not happy with the new direction It took me almost a year, really working hard for my actual in-ring performance, night in and night out

I have to prove myself all over again I remember performing in Paris [Clip]: (booing and negative yelling) And I'd never heard that many "boos" for me in my life, and then I performed [Clip]: (crowd cheering) Despite loosing the match, they still chanted my name And I remember just taking a moment to realize, "This is what you're doing, you're changing peoples' minds

" That's what the character's all about, being the light in the dark [Clip]: "Mustafa Ali!" I turned this public opinion about me all the way around and become one of the top good guys in the industry [Clip]: "Mustafa Ali is headed to Wrestlemania!" And I got to compete at Wrestlemania 34 For 20 minutes, the entire world, millions of people, were watching me It's a dream come true

[Clip]: "Oh no! Oh!" [Clip]: "John Cena, standing up" [John Cena]: "Well done!" I represent the kids that sit in the third row that look like me, and they got a funny name like mine, and they get go, "Hey, Mustafa Ali, he wrestles for WWE!" There are no limitations, there are no barriers Nothing can stop you and nothing can define you but you [Clip]: "Here is your winner, Mustafa Ali!"