Food by VICE

Racist Incident at Portland Food Truck Leads to Backlash for Unrelated Food Cart

The people of Portland keep mistaking Gharib Muhammad for another man who used a racial slur and threw a bottle of Gatorade at a customer.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Jun 13 2018, 2:00pm

Photo via The Oregonian

Last week, Islam El Masry—the owner of the Little Pharaoh Egyptian food cart in Portland, Oregon—was arrested after harassing a customer who tried to pay part of her $7 lunch bill with quarters. He also called her a racial slur, threw a bottle of Gatorade at her, and squirted Sriracha on her.

Gharib Muhammad would very much like the good people of Portland to stop mistaking him for El Masry. Muhammad also owns an Egyptian food cart that is often parked a couple of blocks from El Masry’s—and, in an unfortunate coincidence, his cart is named ElMasry. Regardless, he is not the man who allegedly used the N-word repeatedly and attacked a woman with a bottle and some hot sauce, all over a few quarters.

Muhammad told Willamette Week that, over the weekend, a group of between 15 and 20 people shouted at his wife while she manned the cart, holding signs asking for his cart to be shut down. He also said that he’s been flipped off by a man who yelled, "I remember what you did yesterday.”

Muhammad says that Carlotta Washington, the woman who was on the receiving end of El Masry’s abuse, is welcome to eat at his ElMasry for free for the next month. “Believe it or not," Muhammad says, "when I have customers come with change like that, I'm very happy."

El Masry—the man, not the food truck—released two lengthy videos on YouTube shortly after his arrest, admitting to calling Washington a racial slur and dousing her with Sriracha, but stopping just short of an apology.

“I really feel bad and I really feel sorry for what happened to me and for her too, both of us,” he said, adding “If he or she makes me angry, I want to make her the same, too. Nothing personal, nothing about her people.”

In more than 95 rambling minutes, El Masry blames his irritability on having to both fast and give up cigarettes for Ramadan, and he says that all he wants is to be able to sell his business and go back to Egypt to care for his ailing parents.

Meanwhile, Carlotta Washington says that she has struggled to sleep after the incident, but she isn’t going to hold a grudge. “I want to extend forgiveness to him,” she told KGW8. “I feel he should be held accountable for what he’s done but I don’t want him to be in jail [...] I don’t want this man to have to pay a huge price over anger and over a temporary moment.”

Awesome. Now if the rest of Portland could extend that same forgiveness to Gharib Muhammad—the dude who hasn’t done anything wrong—that would be cool, too.