If you missed the latest meeting of the Muslim Hate Party the Times will catch you up.
Rider Asks if Cabby Is Muslim, Then Stabs Him
By N. R. KLEINFIELD
Published: August 25, 2010
It was the first fare of the cabdriver’s shift. A young man hailed him at the corner of Second Avenue and East 24th Street, wanting to go to 42nd and Second. It was 6 p.m. on Tuesday; the traffic was dense.
Ahmed H. Sharif, a taxi driver, was stabbed by a passenger on Tuesday. He said his attacker asked him if he was Muslim.
Once the fare, Michael Enright, a 21-year-old film student who had been recently trailing Marines
in Afghanistan, settled in the back, he started asking friendly enough questions: Where was the driver from? Was he Muslim?
The driver, Ahmed H. Sharif, 44, said he was from Bangladesh, and yes he was Muslim.
Mr. Enright said, “Salaam aleikum,” the Arabic greeting “Peace be upon you.”
“How’s your Ramadan
going?” Mr. Enright asked, Mr. Sharif said.
He told him it was going fine. Then, he said, Mr. Enright began making fun of the rituals of Ramadan, and Mr. Sharif sensed this cab ride might not be like any other.
“So I stopped talking to him,” Mr. Sharif said. “He stopped talking, too.”
As the cab inched up Third Avenue and reached 39th Street, Mr. Sharif said in a phone interview, Mr. Enright suddenly began cursing at him and shouting “This is the checkpoint” and “I have to bring you down.” He said he told him he had to bring the king of Saudi Arabia to the checkpoint.
“He was talking like he was a soldier,” Mr. Sharif said.
He withdrew a Leatherman knife, Mr. Sharif said, and, reaching through the opening in the plastic divider, slashed Mr. Sharif’s throat. When Mr. Sharif turned, he said, Mr. Enright stabbed him in his face, on his arm and on his thumbs.
Mr. Sharif said he told him: “I beg of you, don’t kill me. I worked so hard, I have a family.”
He said Mr. Enright bolted out of the slowly moving cab. Mr. Sharif then found a police officer who apprehended Mr. Enright. The officer told him, Mr. Sharif said, that Mr. Enright said he had tried to rob him.
Mr. Sharif received more than two dozen stitches at Bellevue Hospital Center and was released. Mr. Enright was given a psychiatric evaluation there.
The Manhattan district attorney charged Mr. Enright with second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime, first-degree assault as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon. He was arraigned on Wednesday in Manhattan Criminal Court, appearing in cargo shorts and a polo shirt, and ordered held without bail. If convicted of the top charge, he would face up to 25 years in prison.
“He’s terrified,” said Mr. Enright’s lawyer, Jason A. Martin. “He’s shocked at the allegations. He’s just trying to cope with it right now.”
The violence that erupted during the cab ride came amid a heated and persisting national debate over whether to situate a Muslim community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero. Upon learning of the attack on the cabdriver, some Muslim groups called for political and religious leaders to quiet tensions.
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
, said in a statement: “As other American minorities have experienced, hate speech often leads to hate crimes. Sadly, we’ve seen how the deliberate public vilification of Islam can lead some individuals to violence against innocent people.”
In a statement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
said, “This attack runs counter to everything that New Yorkers believe, no matter what God we may pray to.” He said he had spoken to Mr. Sharif and told him “ethnic or religious bias has no place in our city.” He invited him to come to see him at City Hall on Thursday.
The arresting officers said Mr. Enright seemed to be drunk, the police said, and a city official briefed on the investigation said there was an empty bottle of Scotch in his backpack. The police did not do a Breathalyzer test.
Mr. Sharif, however, said Mr. Enright did not appear inebriated to him.
Mr. Sharif, who lives in Jamaica, Queens, with his wife and four children, came to the United States about 25 years ago and was a cook before becoming a cabdriver 15 years ago. He said nothing of this nature had happened to him before. Recently, some passengers asked him about the center planned near ground zero, he recalled, and he replied that he was against it, that there was no need to put it there.
What is known about Mr. Enright presents a complicated picture. An only child, he lives with his mother in Brewster, N.Y., a middle-class suburb about 50 miles north of Manhattan. Neighbors said he was friendly enough and often skateboarded outside his house.
He is a senior, studying film, at School of Visual Arts, on East 23rd Street, near where he hailed the cab.
He was arrested in November on charges of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. According to the police, he was picked up on Second Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, where he was acting violently, banging on walls and ringing doorbells. There was also a warrant out for him at the time for another violation, though it was unclear on Wednesday what it was for.
Mr. Enright had been working as an unpaid intern with an Internet media company called tvworldwide.com
on a documentary that followed Bravo Company of the First Battalion, Third Marines, known as the Lava Dogs.
An article in The Journal News in March said the film, “Home of the Brave,” was to be Mr. Enright’s senior thesis. The article said that in October, Mr. Enright spent time at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii filming the Marines as they prepared for deployment to Afghanistan. In April and May, he spent five weeks embedded with them in Afghanistan, according to military officials in Afghanistan. One of the members of the regiment was a friend from Brewster High School, Cpl. Alex Eckner.
In the article, Mr. Enright said that the experiences of Mr. Eckner led him to want to do the film.
Mr. Enright is also a volunteer with Intersections International, an initiative of the Collegiate Churches of New York that promotes justice and faith across religions and cultures. The organization, which covered part of Mr. Enright’s travel expenses to Afghanistan, has been a staunch supporter of the Islamic center near ground zero. Mr. Enright volunteered with the group’s veteran-civilian dialogue project.
Joseph Ward III, the director of communications for Intersections, said that if Mr. Enright had been involved in a hate crime, it ran “counter to everything Intersections stands for” and was shocking.
Mr. Enright, according to the article in The Journal News, was also working as a landscaper at Four Winds Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Katonah, N.Y.
The older brother of Alex Eckner, Wesley Eckner, 27, said in an interview: “It’s crazy to hear this. It sounds completely out of character.”
Wesley Eckner, who served three combat tours with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now in college, said that Mr. Enright was “a jolly kid” who liked to “goof around.” Whereas the older Mr. Eckner liked to go with his brother to the gun range to fire vintage World War II rifles, he said, Mr. Enright gravitated to taking photographs and loved movies.
During the time Mr. Enright was in Afghanistan, Mr. Eckner said, things had been quiet with the Marine unit, though it had come under plenty of fire before he arrived.
Yet he recalled a curious call from Mr. Enright not long after he had returned from overseas. He asked Mr. Eckner how he was dealing with readjusting, leading Mr. Eckner to believe he was having some trouble. He found that odd, considering that Mr. Enright had been there for such a short period. He said Mr. Enright had never said anything to them that was anti-Muslim.