Yesterday at City Hall, Mayor Bloomberg met with Ahmed Sharif, the cab driver who was stabbed by a drunken passenger because of his religion. Despite the harrowing experience, and the lingering trauma from the attack, Sharif affirmed his love for NYC: "I feel like I belong here. This is the city actually [for] all colors, races, religion, everyone. We live here side by side peacefully."
Bloomberg invited Sharif, his wife, and their four children to meet after Sharif was attacked by Michael Enright, a 21-year-old film student who had spent some time in Afghanistan making a documentary about soldiers. Asked whether he thought Enright's attack had any relation to the planned mosque and community center two blocks from Ground Zero, Sharif said, "We didn't have a talk about the mosque...Of course this was for my religion. He attacked me after he knew I was a Muslim." Bhairavi Desai of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which is 50% Muslim, said violence felt "inevitable" after all the political rhetoric and furor around the Ground Zero mosque: "While they can hide behind a podium and bully pulpit, it's the ordinary working person on the street that faces the consequences. Fearmongering leads to hate crimes."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly confirmed that two journals filled with anti-Muslim comments were found on Enright during his arrest, but are waiting for a warrant to parse through them. Enright, an honors student at the School of Visual Arts from upstate Brewster, was being held without bail at Rikers Island yesterday on charges of attempted murder as a hate crime, assault, and weapons possession. He was moved to Bellevue Hospital's psych ward last night.
Enright's friends blamed the attack on his alcoholism, which had gotten him in trouble in the past: "He's not a monster. He doesn't hate Muslim people. He just blacks out and is completely irrational," said a college classmate who asked for her name to not be used. Cesar De Leon, 40, a Brooklyn actor who starred in a short Web spoof Enright made called "Sammy Adams," said that Enright was preoccupied with shell shock. "Michael...loved listening to stories about veterans—he really cared. It was all about getting the stories out to Americans," said De Leon, a Desert Storm vet. Yousheng Tang, the director of photography on Enright's spoof, called him "a sweet and lovable human being battling his inner demons, one of which was alcoholism." Enright's mother, Cathy, says her son is scared: "This is not Michael. He is a wonderful person. I'm so saddened by all of this."