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Ex-Obama aide Stuart Seldowitz charged with hate crime for racist, Islamophobic rant in New York City

Radiance News Service

Nov. 23: Earlier this week, a series of videos of a man heckling and harassing a food cart vendor in New York City, USA went viral. In the videos, the man continuously offers Islamophobic, racist and threatening commentary against the food cart vendor, who appears to be attempting to defuse the situation and requests the offender to leave his place of work if he does not wish to buy anything. Later, the man was identified on social media as Stuart Seldowitz, 64, a former State Dept official and security advisor and an aide to the President in the Obama administration. According to online reports, he also appears to have held a position in the US State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs in the early 2000s.

New Yorkers throng Hussein’s cart after the incident in solidarity. Photo Credit: Dr Lucky Tran’s X

Food cart vendors are common in the state of New York, with many of them being dubbed “halal carts”, offering halal, affordable fare to be eaten on the go, and are generally run by people of Arab or South Asian descent. The halal cart owner in question who was harassed, 24-year-old Mohamed Hussein, said his encounter with Stuart has shaken him.

On being asked if he wanted to sue Stuart, he said, “Yes, of course,” according to the New York Post. After the incident came to light and Hussein’s cart was identified, a heart-warming development came to light as New Yorkers thronged the cart to buy food from him in an effort to support him. His boss and cart co-owner Islam Moustafa said, “We want to sue him for harassment and hate speech,” adding that he considered this kind of incident as hate speech, not freedom of speech.

According to ABC News, Hussein’s friends as well as “strangers gathered around a plastic folding table on the sidewalk.” The table was provided by a loyal customer and local resident. “I think it’s very important to highlight, that she’s Jewish,” said one of the supporters Husam Kaid. “She lives in the building. She’s a friend and a customer who’s been coming here for a while.”

Seldowitz on Wednesday was reportedly taken into custody at the New York Police Department’s 19th Precinct and charged with aggravated harassment, hate crime stalking, stalking with intent to cause fear and stalking in employment, according to the NYPD.

Additionally, he was also fired from his work with lobbying and communications firm Gotham Government Relations, according to a public statement put out online by the firm.

Hussein (L) and his employer Islam Moustafa (R) in front of their cart. Photo Credit: Alyza Enriquez/Vice

According to Moustafa, the harassment has been consistent for over two weeks, with Hussein initially thinking that Seldowitz was a senior homeless man in a disturbed state, but later realising that he was an ex-government official. Seldowitz harassed him on a variety of subjects, including blasphemous and Islamophobic statements against Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, accusing him of being a Hamas supporter, criticising him for allegedly not speaking English, threatening him about his citizenship status, and asking him ‘whether he rapes his daughter’.

Additionally, connecting his Egyptian roots, he threatened him, saying: “The Mukhabarat in Egypt will get your parents. Does your father like his fingernails? They’ll take them out one by one,” all while smiling.

The videos come as the US is experiencing an “unprecedented” increase in reported anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents in the last month, akin to the post-9/11 period. However, the most egregious of his provocations was at the end of one of the videos, where he says that “If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, it wasn’t enough,” referring to the massacres in Gaza.

On social media, people raised the question that such closet Islamophobes had been and continue to be part of Middle East policy-making processes at the highest level.

Photo Credit: X post of Iyad el Baghdadi
Photo Credit: @LowkeyOnline’s X

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