“Breatheart deal” for Stuart Seldowitz, a former US official who harassed a Muslim food vendor in New York


Human rights activists denounce the “sweetheart deal” that was made for a former US State Department employee who had harassed a street vendor who was Muslim in Egypt due to his background. The former employee had the hate crime charges against him dropped in exchange for anti-bias training.

A video of Stuart Seldowitz went viral in November, a few weeks into Israel’s war in Gaza. It showed the former government employee, who had previously worked for the State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, harassing and threatening 24-year-old Mohamed Hussein, a food vendor in New York City, on multiple occasions.

“Did you rape your daughter like [Prophet] Mohammed did?” One day while Seldowitz was harassing Hussein at work, he yelled at the young man.

He further remarked, probably in reference to Israel’s onslaught on Gaza since October 7, which has resulted in the deaths of at least 24,500 people, the majority of them women and children, that “if we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, it wasn’t enough.”

Seldowitz remarked, seemingly endangering the young vendor’s immigration status and showcasing his local expertise: “I’ll send your picture to my friends in Immigration.” In Egypt, the Mukhabarat will take care of your parents. Is your dad proud of his messy fingernails? He’ll eliminate them one by one.”

Seldowitz claimed in court that his remarks did not reflect who he usually is and explained his conduct as having occurred in the heat of the moment.

But the widely circulated footage of the harassment makes it evident that the two men were dressed differently while Seldowitz was having his outbursts, indicating that the harassment took on over several days and that Hussein was politely requesting that he leave.

According to Afaf Nasher, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New York chapter, “this person was harassed multiple times,” as reported to The New Arab. “We see a disproportionate response when our communities are victimized versus other communities.”

She pointed out that according to CAIR’s data on Muslim Americans reporting hate and prejudice events, just 4% of them tell law enforcement about their experiences, with the main motivation being a fear of repercussions.

Nasher emphasized her support for restorative justice as well as instructive moments for people with incomplete knowledge or fleeting moments of imprudence. But Seldowitz is an educated man who knows a lot about the Middle East, and he went back to the food vendor several times.

“In general, I’m not in favor of severe penalties. However, he secured a deal that no one else could have,” Nasher remarked. “It was a traumatic experience for that individual.”

He is deeply ingrained in American culture. She continued, “I hope he can rediscover the true essence of what America is meant to be.

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