A taxi cab driver was recovering Wednesday from a vicious attack that’s been labeled a hate crime. Police said the victim was repeatedly slashed because he’s Muslim. The attack happened around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday in a busy commercial area on 40th Street and Third Avenue.Police said 21-year-old Michael Enright of Brewster, N.Y., while a passenger in a cab, blew up in a hate-filled rage against 43-year-old taxi driver Ahmed Sharif, a Bangladeshi immigrant.
“He sat in the back seat, obviously, asked driver if he’s Muslim. The driver said he was. He said “assalamu alaikum” and then began to stab the driver through the partition. He said ‘this is a checkpoint,'” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
Police said an intoxicated Enright slashed Sharif across the neck with a Leatherman knife. As the taxi driver went to knock the knife out, Enright still screaming, cut the taxi driver in the face, arms and hand. Sharif was able to keep Enright locked in the cab until he found a police officer to arrest him.
Sharif was quoted in a news release from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance as saying the attack left him shaken.
“I feel very sad,” he said adding “all drivers should be more careful.”
1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports that Enright was arraigned Wednesday afternoon and was ordered to be held without bail. A grand jury will hear the case on Monday.
Enright also asked to be placed in protective custody due to the Ground Zero mosque debate, and his attorney said Enright is shocked by the charges against him.
“Right now he’s terrified. He shocked at the allegations. Right now we’re going to try to gather as much information as possible and to figure out where to go from here,” Jason Martin said.
Javaid Tariq of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said he has little doubt what the incident was.
“It is a hate crime. It’s is not any robbery or fare dispute or anything else. Talking to him, asking him if he’s a Muslim? Telling him it’s a checkpoint and stabbing him. Of course it’s a hate crime,” Tariq said.
Enright’s attorney said the 21-year-old honor student has no criminal record, does volunteer work, and worked as a journalist in Afghanistan for a short time this spring.
His father was in court, but would not speak to the media about his son.
Neighbors in Brewster were stunned to hear Enright was in trouble over an alleged hate crime.
“I find that hard to believe,” one woman said. “He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.
Meanwhile, Sharif has accepted an invitation from Mayor Bloomberg to visit City Hall on Thursday.