Ex-diplomat ‘peace-loving,’ says lawyer at NYC halal hate hearing

An ex-U.S. diplomat and adviser to former President Barack Obama accused of harassing two Manhattan halal vendors with words of hate was described by his lawyer Thursday as without a hateful bone in his body.

“The person standing before this court is not a warmonger or Islamophobe,” said lawyer Scott Bookstein at his client Stuart Seldowitz’s arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court. “He’s a peace-loving person devoid of hate for Muslims or anyone else.”

Seldowitz, 64, faces charges of aggravated harassment and stalking as a hate crime after multiple videos surfaced showing him surfaced of him harassing vendors at the Q Halal food cart on E. 83rd St. and Second Ave. on the Upper East Side in a string of incidents beginning Nov. 7.

In the videos posted online, Seldowitz is depicted saying to the vendors that “Muhammad was a child molester,” asking “Did you rape your daughter like Muhammad?” and declaring “If we killed 4,000 Palestinians kids … it wasn’t enough.”

Stuart Seldowitz is walked from the 19th Pct. Wednesday, Nov. 22, in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)
Stuart Seldowitz outside the 19th Pct. on the Upper East Side on Wednesday. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Seldowitz’s lawyer claimed that the halal cart vendors — identified by cart owner Islam Moustafa as Mohammed Hussain, 24, and Baha Kamil — provoked his client’s tirade.

“What’s not contained in the people’s recitations of these allegations — what wasn’t contained in any press reports — were comments made by the complainant that actually instigated this whole mess,” Bookstein said in court.

Bookstein did not provide any additional details during the arraignment about how the halal vendors incited Seldowitz’s multiple outbursts, and declined further comment after the proceedings.

In an interview with the Daily News before Seldowitz’s arraignment, Moustafa said that regardless of how the 30-year State Department veteran attempts to portray himself, the footage released online paints a disturbing picture.

“He’s a trained politician who knows how to twist things around to victimize himself and appear innocent,” said Moustafa. “Muhammad repeatedly begged him to leave, but the guy persisted. It’s very obvious in the video.”

The videos attracted widespread condemnation of the former diplomat, including from Gotham Government Relations, a NYC-based lobbying firm where Seldowitz served as Foreign Affairs chairman.

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

In an online biography that has been deleted from the lobbying firm’s website, Seldowitz was 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 Honor Award.

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge James Clynes ordered a supervised release for Seldowitz and issued an order of protection barring him from any contact with the two victims. He’s due back in court in January.

Related Posts