The full details of Tuesday's harrowing cabbie stabbing incident have emerged. According to police, Michael Enright, 21, a film student at the School of Visual Arts, was "highly intoxicated" when he hailed Ahmed Sharif's taxi at 6 p.m. that evening. “He asked me where I’m from. I said Bangladesh. Second question he ask me, are you Muslim? I said yes. Then he tells me ‘assalamu alaikum' ['peace be unto you' in Arabic],” Sharif, 43, told CBS.
Sharif told police that Enright began ridiculing the Muslim holiday of Ramadan and then started a bizarre, belligerent rant: “This is checkpoint motherfucker. I have to put you down. You have to bring Abdullah to this checkpoint, I have to bring him down, too.” Enright thrust the blade of his Leatherman folding knife through the open window of the cab's plexiglass partition, ultimately slashing the cab driver across the throat, shoulders, arm, hands and lip.
But Sharif was able to lock Enright in his back seat, abandon his cab and call 911. An officer on patrol nearby arrived to find Mr. Enright sprawled out on the street, having fallen after climbing out one of the cab's back windows. "I saw on his face so much hate and so upset, the anger at me, because of my religion. And it's a shock to me," said Sharif. At Enright's arraignment yesterday, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney James Zaleta said, "The EMT on the scene said if the cut had been any longer or deeper he [Sharif] would have been dead on the scene...This was a highly vicious attack on an innocent person based on his religion."
Enright, who grew up in Brewster, a small village in Putnam County, was charged with second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime, first-degree assault as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon and faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. At his arraignment, his lawyer Jason A. Martin said, “He’s terrified. He’s shocked at the allegations. He’s just trying to cope with it right now.”
Cops believe he was intoxicated at the time of his arrest, and a city official briefed on the investigation said there was an empty bottle of Scotch in his backpack. A police source said he also had a personal diary filled with pages of "pretty strong anti-Muslim comments" with him, and that the journal equated Muslims with "killers, ungrateful for the help they were being offered, filthy murderers without a conscience."
Enright does volunteer work for Intersections International, a group that promotes peace and tolerance, and who supports the planned Ground Zero mosque and community center. For his senior project, Enright recently filmed a documentary about a Marine unit in Afghanistan (you can see the trailer below). The group's director,
Rev. Robert Chase, said it was "tragic.... We've been working very hard to build bridges between folks from different religions and cultures. This is really shocking and sad for us."
His friends were shocked at the attack, but said he had become short-tempered and withdrawn since retuning from Afghanistan: "He seemed a lot more quiet. He seemed to be a lot more pulled back than he used to," said a friend who asked not to be identified. A neighbor told the Wall Street Journal, "I've never heard a bad word about him. I find it very, very hard to believe. The boy always seemed to be of sound character to me."
Mayor Bloomberg invited Sharif to City Hall Friday, and said the attack was clearly "motivated by anti-Muslim bias." "This attack runs counter to everything that New Yorkers believe, no matter what God we pray to," Bloomberg said.