WEST RIDGE — A Far North Side aldermanic candidate has apologized for past offensive tweets that were found on a deleted account and caused controversy this week.
Mueze Bawany, a political newcomer and Chicago Public Schools teacher, hopes to end Ald. Debra Silverstein’s 12-year streak representing the 50th Ward. But the tweets — some of which include profanity — have thrown a wrench into the race.
Bawany’s tweets were first reported by the Tribune. They are several years old and came from a deleted account, but Bawany confirmed they are real and he wrote them.
“F— Israel and f— all you Zionist scum,” Bawany, now 35, wrote in a Tweet from May 2019.
In other Tweets from the same year, he called a white woman a “Cracker” and wrote, “F— off honky.”
Bawany apologized in a statement Wednesday.
“I want to own that these were my tweets and let those they hurt know that I apologize unequivocally,” Bawany wrote. “The tone and content of these tweets do not represent who I am, the campaign I’m running, and if elected, how I plan to lead.”
Bawany said he has reached out and spoken with Jewish constituents who have contributed to his campaign, including JCUA Votes, which has previously endorsed him. He said he has been “humbled” by their understanding and willingness to listen.
Bawany’s opponent, incumbent Silverstein, is Jewish. She has openly talked about being the only Jewish person to sit on City Council and has previously condemned antisemitic comments made by celebrities such as Kanye West.
In a statement, Silverstein said she was “shocked, saddened and deeply disturbed” by the unearthed tweets.
“We have seen a significant rise in hate speech, hate crimes and especially anti-Semitic hate crimes over the past several years,” Silverstein said. “The Jewish community is on high alert because we are the targets of violent crime, and anyone who participates in a discourse of hate against any marginalized community must acknowledge the connection between denigrating language and action.”
Bawany, who moved to Chicago from Karachi, Pakistan, with his family when he was 3 years old, said his hurtful comments were made during “painful lows and moments where hope seemed scarce.” Those lows for him included Donald Trump’s presidency and the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Bawany said he felt exasperated, powerless and hopeless when he made the comments.
“Those times for me were really hard, understanding how suffering is happening here at home and also abroad,” he said. “I was just tired. I always think about what my mom tells me, that people can’t be defined by singular moments when they were in distress. And I was in distress. I felt like nothing was going right.”
But Bawany said he simply offers these as explanations for his comments, not as excuses for the harmful language he used.
“I’m never not going apologize for any harm,” he said. “These words are important. Careless words make people love less.”
Bawany said he hopes people can find forgiveness and they can “see the ethos of what we’re fighting for,” including fair housing, public safety and more transparent and democratic ward services.
Bawany said he recognizes that it takes time to rebuilt trust, but he is open and willing to hear from residents. He plans to address his comments at the 50th Ward Aldermanic Forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
“I want to make myself available to anyone harmed or concerned,” he said.
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