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Ex-US State Dept official arrested for Islamophobic remarks

NEW YORK (Bernama-dpa) — An ex-US diplomat and adviser to former president Barack Obama was arrested Wednesday for hurling anti-Islamic remarks at halal vendors in Manhattan, cops said, reported German news agency (dpa).  

Police cuffed 30-year State Department employee Stuart Seldowitz, 66, on charges of harassment and stalking as a hate crime for spewing Islamophobic remarks to vendors on E. 83rd Street near Second Avenue on November 7, cops said.

Islam Moustafa, who along with partners Yasser Nawar and Ahmed Raki owns the Q Halal cart, said he initially believed their harasser was mentally disturbed.

Stuart Seldowitz whisked away by police in New York. PHOTO: GettyImages

“It became more irritating when I learned he’s an ex-Obama official adviser,” said Moustafa.

Seldowtiz visited the food cart at least four times after the initial incident on November 7, the food vendors say. During those visits, he harassed the cart’s workers, including 24-year-old Mohammed Hussain, according to Moustafa.

“How could someone in that status stoop so low in conversation with a 24-year-old?” Moustafa asked.

At one point while Hussain was prepping the cart, Seldowitz threatened to report him to his contacts in Egyptian intelligence, Moustafa said.

“Everything is on the video,” Moustafa said. “Muhammad repeatedly begged him to leave, but the guy persisted.”

Gotham Government Relations, a city-based lobbying firm that appointed Seldowitz as its Foreign Affairs chair, released a statement condemning the embattled former diplomat.

“Gotham Government Relations has ended all affiliation with Stuart Seldowitz,” the statement read. “The video of his actions is vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice at our firm.”

In a biography now removed from the firm’s website, Seldowitz is described as a 30-year State Department veteran who worked as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate under the Obama Administration and as a three-time recipient of the State Department’s Superior Honour Award.

Prior to his arrest, Seldowitz apologised on the political website City and State.  

“I regret the whole thing happened and I’m sorry,” Seldowitz said. “But you know, in the heat of the moment, I said things that probably I shouldn’t have said.”

Moustafa applauded Seldowitz’s arrest, saying he crossed the line between free speech and hate speech.

“We need a good definition to separate freedom of speech from hate speech. What he said is too much for me, and I’m glad the Hate Crime Unit arrested him for further investigation,” said Moustafa.