A New York City taxi driver was stabbed multiple times Tuesday after a drunken passenger determined he is a Muslim. The victim, Ahmed Sharif, was slashed across his face, neck and hands. Sharif says the suspect, Michael Enright, had asked him several questions about his religion, including whether he’s a Muslim and observing Ramadan. Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance spoke with Sharif at his hospital bed. She describes what he said happened. [includes rush transcript]
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AMY GOODMAN: A New York City taxi driver was stabbed multiple times Tuesday after a drunken passenger determined he was Muslim. The victim is Ahmed Sharif. He was slashed across his face, neck and hands. The suspect, Michael Enright, is a film student at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He recently returned from Afghanistan, where he was embedded with US troops to work on a documentary. Enright was arraigned on Wednesday on multiple charges including felony attempted murder as a hate crime.
Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance spoke with Sharif at his hospital bed. She described what he said happened.
BHAIRAVI DESAI: Ahmed Sharif picked up a passenger who hailed him at 24th Street and Second Avenue, and he was going toward Times Square. And, you know, the ride started out very smoothly. I mean, the man said, "As-salaam Alaikum." And then, you know, he started asking questions: "Where are you from? How long have you been here? How long have you been driving? Are you a Muslim?" And then he asked him questions about Ramadan: "Are you fasting?" And then his questions about Ramadan were very disrespectful, and he started to mock, you know, the holy month. And at that point, Mr. Sharif just stopped talking to him. He realized something was up. He started just concentrating on the driving.
So, on Third Avenue, about 39th to 40th Streets, all of a sudden, after being quiet, the perpetrator got very loud, and he started screaming and started cursing at Mr. Sharif. And he said to him — you know, he said to him, "Salaam Alaikum. Consider this a checkpoint." And Mr. Sharif was like, "Checkpoint? You know, what do you mean, checkpoint?" He said, "Consider this a checkpoint. I need to bring Abdullah through the checkpoint." And then he took the knife out, and through the crack in the partition window, Mr. Sharif could see that, you know, he went to cut him across the neck.
So half of his neck is completely cut up. And as he tried to fight him off, he also has defensive wounds on his hand and on his shoulder. And the cut on his shoulder is extremely deep. And he has also one more wound on his face, on his upper lip. So, he’s bleeding profusely.
The assailant got out. He started running. Mr. Sharif was just screaming, "Help! Help! Help!" And then, you know, the car was moving slowly, and he kept moving the car. About two blocks later, he saw a police officer around 42nd Street and Third Avenue. He got out, and he told the police — and he’s bleeding. He told the police officer, "Stop that man. He stabbed me." When the police officer caught him, he said, "What happened here?" And this guy said, "I was trying to rob him." Mr. Sharif said, "No, he wasn’t trying to rob me. You know, he said all of these hateful things to me about being Muslim," and that basically he wanted to teach him a lesson. And so, then the police were able to apprehend him, and they took him in at that point.
When I talked to Ahmed, you know, when he was still in his hospital bed, when we first saw him, you know, he couldn’t speak. When he was able to speak and I was able to talk to him, the first thing he said to me was we have to get the message out, because we can’t let this escalate, drivers need to protect themselves. He said the environment right now is very serious. There is no doubt in our minds that the fear mongering and the ignorance and the hatred that has been spewing around this Islamic cultural center — which has erroneously been called the "Ground Zero mosque" — we have no doubt that it’s that hatred that’s risen to the surface and that’s led to this violence.
AMY GOODMAN: Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement saying the attack appears to have been motivated by anti-Muslim bias. Mayor Bloomberg said Ahmed Sharif accepted an invitation to meet him at City Hall today. Special thanks to Hany Massoud, who interviewed the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.