NYC Cabdriver Stabbed After Telling Passenger He Was Muslim, Police Say

Michael Enright, inset, is accused of attempted murder as a hate crime in the stabbing of Ahmed Sharif, a New York City taxi driver.

Michael Enright, inset, is accused of attempted murder as a hate crime in the stabbing of Ahmed Sharif, a New York City taxi driver.  (AP)

A New York City cabdriver is hospitalized in stable condition after being stabbed by a passenger who allegedly asked him if he was Muslim, police said.

Michael Enright, 21, of Brewster, N.Y., faces charges of attempted murder as a hate crime, first-degree assault, aggravated harassment and criminal possession of a weapon in the attack, NYPD sources told

Enright allegedly hailed a cab in Manhattan at about 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday and, once inside the vehicle, asked Ahmed Sharif, 43, if he was a Muslim. When Sharif confirmed that he was, Enright brandished a knife and slashed him in the throat, arm and lip, police said. Enright is believed to have been heavily intoxicated at the time, sources said.

Sharif remained in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital on Wednesday. He plans to attend a press conference at the site of the alleged attack on Thursday calling for an end to anti-Islamic sentiment surrounding the ongoing debate over the Islamic center that is slated to be built near Ground Zero.

"I feel very sad," Sharif said in a statement released by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. "I have been here more than 25 years.  I have been driving a taxi more than 15 years.  All my four kids were born here.  I never feel this hopeless and insecure before."

Sharif's statement continued, "Right now, the public sentiment is very serious (because of the Ground Zero Mosque debate.)  All drivers should be more careful."

Police sources told that there is no indication the incident is connected to the Islamic center near Ground Zero.

A non-profit organization called Intersections International, which bills itself on its website as a New York-based initiative to promote "justice, reconciliation and peace" across all faiths, released a statement that Enright is not an employee following reports linking him to the organization. Just weeks ago, Intersections International endorsed the construction of an Islamic center near Ground Zero.

"There is a person who fits the description of the alleged perpetrator who has worked with us as a volunteer, but until we get further confirmation of the details in this incident, we cannot comment," the statement read. "Our hearts go out to the cab driver, his family and any person who has dealt with such unacceptable violence."

Enright was awaiting arraignment as of Wednesday afternoon. His father declined comment when contacted by late Wednesday.

According to Sharif's statement, Enright was friendly when he entered the cab, asking where Sharif was from, how long he had been in America, if he was Muslim and if he was planning to fast during Ramadan.

Then, after yelling "Assalami Alakium, consider this a checkpoint," according to the driver's statement, Enright slashed Sharif across the neck.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, called New York Gov. David Paterson to sign the Taxi Driver Protection Act, which was passed by the state legislature in June. The measure increases penalties on crimes against taxi drivers and requires a sign in all taxis warning that assaulting a driver is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

"While a minority of has-been politicians spew ignorance and fear, it's the working person on the street who has to face the consequences," Desai said.  "This kind of bigotry only breeds more violence and makes taxi drivers all the more vulnerable on the streets where there are no bully pulpits or podiums to hide behind."