Brazilian Jewish pol honors Muslim refugee assaulted with xenophobic slurs


RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — A Syrian Muslim refugee who was beaten and told to leave Brazil by his attackers was honored by a Jewish councilman at Rio’s City Hall.

Marcelo Arar proposed the tribute to Mohamed Ali Abdelmoatty Ilenavvy, who was attacked while selling food at a street stand in July. Video of the incident showed people yelling “Leave our country” and “My country is being invaded by bombers, you have quartered kids and teenagers.”

“He was a victim of religious intolerance and prejudice. There is no room for that in Rio,” Arar said.

Ilenavvy said he considers the episode an isolated incident and did not file a criminal complaint with police. He apparently had declined to pay a $3,000 bribe to mafia members to protect his food stand, the O Globo newspaper reported.

“The initiative of the Jewish representative has sent a strong coexistence message between Arabs and Jews in Brazil. Helping an immigrant who was assaulted is remembering that the majority of the Jewish community also has its origins in immigrants who were welcomed by an amazing people,” Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, told JTA.

Ilenavvy fled the Syrian civil war for Brazil and later married a Brazilian native who converted to Islam, with whom he has a son. The rest of his family escaped to Egypt.

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