When video went viral of a racist attack on a Muslim street food vendor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilians wondered gloomily: had their country also been swept up in a global wave of xenophobia?
The answer — a flood of love transforming the humble vendor into a folk hero and, on Thursday, the recipient of a Rio state award — was a heartwarming no.
But the truth may be a little more complicated.
It all began August 3 when Mohamed Ali Abdelmoatty Kenawy, 33, was manning the cart from which he sells Arab-style meat pies and hummus in the thronging center of Copacabana.
Suddenly a thick-set, bald man carrying two sticks appeared, screaming at Kenawy, who came to Brazil three years ago and has since become universally known as “the Syrian refugee.”
“Get out of my country!” yelled the assailant. “I’m a Brazilian and my country is being invaded by these miserable human bombs who …