In two months, hate crimes against Muslim people in the US have escalated significantly following the Oct. 7 attacks orchestrated by Hamas in Israel.
According to an FBI report released in October 2022, the US already saw an increase in hate crimes towards the Muslim community before the war erupted.
However, much like how 9/11 preceded a wave of anti-Muslim violence across the country, Islamophobes have become further emboldened since the outbreak of war, to the detriment of their communities.
At best, these bigots are charged with repeated harassment or vandalism for their hate crimes. At worst, they leave behind families and communities to mourn the dead.
Former state official gleefully harasses halal food vendor
In the case of street cart vendor Mohammad Hussein, he had to endure two weeks of constant harassment before NYPD undertook an investigation.
Starting on Nov. 7, Hussein, 24, was targeted by Stuart Seldowitz, a 64-year-old national security official, who incessantly posed graphic, offensive questions to the young vendor, insulting the Muslim faith and threatening his family in the process.
“What do you think of people who use the Qu’ran as a toilet?” Seldowitz said. “Does it bother you?
Even under the threat of police intervention, Seldowitz persisted in harassing Hussein, even after his shameful rants were caught on camera several times.
It was only after Seldowitz’s rants went viral that he was held accountable. The same day his rants began trending on X, formerly known as Twitter, Seldowitz was let go from his position as Foreign Affairs Chair at Gotham Government Relations, citing his obscene, Islamaphobic rhetoric as “beneath the dignity of the standards [practiced] at our firm.”
The firm alleges Seldowitz has not contributed for years, even though Seldowitz was appointed just last year.
To make matters worse for Seldowitz, NYC City Council Member Julie Menin announced on X that the 19th Precinct was actively investigating Seldowitz. The next day, on Nov. 22, Seldowitz was finally charged with aggravated harassment and several counts of stalking.
Seldowitz claims to regret his actions in an interview with City and State, saying, “in the heat of the moment, I said some things I shouldn’t have said.”
Despite his guilt, Seldowitz also expressed confusion during the interview at his firing from Gotham Government Relations, as he considered his colleagues there as friends.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak to them or to try to speak to them as to why they felt the need to issue this statement,” Seldowitz said.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Hussein had his boss, Islam Mustafa, translate for him to share his side of the story.
“He feels hurt,” Mustafa said. “After the guy left, he couldn’t continue his work, laugh with the customers and joke with them as usual.”
Following Seldowitz’s firing, founder and president of Gotham Government Relations David Schwartz has offered to finance Hussein’s legal fees as he sues Seldowitz for hate speech.
Palestinian college students survive murder attempt
Not long after Seldowitz was apprehended in New York, tragedy struck in Burlington, Vermont.
On the night of Nov. 25, Jason Eaton, 48, was on his porch as three college students were passing by on their way home.
Upon noticing them, Eaton approached and opened fire upon the three young men four times, without so much as a word, from two yards away.
Two of the men, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmad, were shot in the glute and chest, respectively. The third survivor, Hisham Awartani, was paralyzed after his bullet became lodged in his spine.
The investigation into Eaton’s motives is still ongoing. However, it must be noted that the three young men were all Palestinian.
In a statement by Burlington Chief Jon Murad, he noted the victims were wearing keffiyehs and speaking Arabic before the attack.
In an interview with the New York Times, Chief Murad said, “Whether or not it was a hate crime by the law, there is no question it was a hateful act.”
The day after the shooting, Eaton was apprehended by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and on Nov. 27 he was charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder.
Upon arrest, Eaton claimed he was waiting for the agents and requested a lawyer. Later, police discovered a .38 caliber handgun with five rounds of ammunition. After conducting ballistics tests, the police found it matched the rounds retrieved from the crime scene.
Despite the evidence against him, Eaton has since pleaded not guilty to the charges.
While Abdalhamid and Ahmad are expected to recover fully, only Abdalhamid has been released. Ahmad and Awartani both remain hospitalized, with Awartani most likely to remain paralyzed for life, according to his doctors.
“Any attack like this is horrific, be it here or in Palestine,” Awartani said in a message to his peers at Brown University. “This is why when you send your wishes and light your candles for me today, your mind should not just be focused on me as an individual, rather as a proud member of a people being oppressed.”
Even despite enduring this unforgivable tragedy, all three survivors are fortunate to escape with their lives. Sadly, this is not always the case.
Paranoid landlord kills his six-year-old tenant
Joseph Czuba, a 71-year-old landlord from Plainfield, Illinois, was also arrested on Oct. 11 after brutally murdering six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and putting his mother, Hannan Shahin in the hospital.
Czuba initially approached Shahin by accusing her of the conflict in Israel. When Shahin attempted to pray with him for peace, Czuba pulled a knife on her.
Shahin managed to escape briefly to call 911, however, after getting through, Czuba had gotten ahold of her son.
During the attack, Czuba stabbed Al-Fayoume 26 times and Shahin more than a dozen. Czuba also told Shahin, “you Muslims must die,” as he tried to strangle her.
By the time police arrived, it was too late to save Al-Fayoume, and he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
Unlike Seldowitz, Czuba didn’t target his tenants over the span of weeks. If anything, he was reportedly close with the family, especially Wadea, attending his birthday parties and building his outdoor playset.
To try and explain Czuba’s change of heart, prosecutors claim Czuba was an avid listener of conservative talk radio, while Czuba’s wife alleges her husband was terrified of being attacked by Middle Eastern people.
Czuba has since been charged with murder and two hate crime charges, while Al-Fayoume’s father, Oday, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit this morning toward the Czuba’s and their property management company.
At Al-Fayoume’s funeral, his great uncle, Mahmoud Yousef, gave a powerful speech denouncing the violence that stole his nephew’s life.
“We live in a country called the USA,” Yousef said. “We’re not at war, and we’re not bringing war here too.”