Surge in Hate Crime Towards Muslim-Americans Rattles The Country

Mohammed Hussein at his Halal Cart on the Upper East Side. Photo credit: Usman Ali Chohan


An increase of demonization and hate crimes towards Muslims in America and those of
Middle Eastern background has been one disturbing result of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as it
reaches into its second month, after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7th and Israel retaliated by
attacking the Gaza Strip.

A series of New York City incidents went viral in mid-November, shaking many city
residents. An older man began harassing 24-year-old Mohammed Hussein while Hussein was
preparing food at Islam Mustafa’s Q Halal Cart on the Upper East Side. Over the course of
several weeks, the man subjected Hussein to anti-Arab, anti-Muslim rants.

“If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, it wasn’t enough,” the man said on one occasion,
which Hussein recorded. “The Mukhabarat [the intelligence agency] in Egypt will get your
parents. Does your father like his fingernails? They’ll take them out one by one.” The man, later
identified as Stuart Seldowitz, had served as an aide to the Obama and Clinton administrations,
as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate and as Deputy
Director/Senior political officer in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian
Affairs, respectfully.

Seldowitz, 64, is a resident of the neighborhood and before the incidents, was a
government lobbyist.  Seldowitz was arrested on November 23 on charges of aggravated
harassment and hate crime stalking. When asked at a perp walk about his remarks, Seldowitz
smiled back at reporters.

A October report by the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim-
American civil rights advocacy group, on recent hate crime incidents towards American Muslims
found a total 774 bias incidents in relation to the Mideast conflict. CAIR states that the figures
generated might be undercounted, as well. Violent incidents such as the killing of Wadea Al
Fayome in the Chicago suburbs in October and the shooting of three Palestinian students in
Burlington, Vermont during the Thanksgiving weekend has heightened fears in the American
Muslim community.

In the New York area, NYPD statistics released in November showed eight anti-Muslim
incidents across the five boroughs during the period of October of this year. FBI hate crime
statistics are released on a yearly basis so recent data is not available.

As Israel’s war in Gaza continues, many U.S. Muslims thousands of miles away from the
conflict are keeping a close watch on the latest round in the conflict. Many in the community are
also keeping an eye for potential instances where their religious and cultural identities may come
under attack from hateful individuals influenced by the conflict in Palestine.