"This incident happened because the Islamic center has become so big an issue," said Tariq. "Being a Muslim and having a beard is making us more vulnerable."
The blond and babyfaced Enright was arraigned Wednesday and formally charged with attempted murder in the second degree as a hate crime, assault in the first degree as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.
Enright was ordered held without bond. His next court date is Aug. 30.
According to police, Enright hailed Sharif's taxi at 24th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan just after 6 p.m. Tuesday.
As the cab headed north on Third Avenue, Enright allegedly asked Sharif, who is of South Asian origin, "Are you Muslim?" Sharif says that after he confirmed he was Muslim, Enright attacked him. "He started yelling, 'This is a checkpoint, this is a checkpoint mother______, I have to put you down."
Enright allegedly slashed Sharif across the face, neck and shoulders with a folding Leatherman knife.
"I said, 'Please do not kill me,'" recounted Sharif. Sharif sustained five cuts in all, including defensive wounds to the arm and hand.
Police said Sharif was able to pull the car over and temporarily lock Enright, who had been drinking, in the back seat before summoning help. Enright was lying in the street blocking traffic when apprehended by an off-duty police officer.
Both Sharif and Enright were taken to Bellevue Hospital, Enright for psychiatric evaluation. Enright was classified as an EDP, an emotionally-disturbed person, at the hospital.
Enright had traveled to Afghanistan with an organization called Intersections International, a New York-based group that promotes itself as promoting justice and peace across lines of faith (and has come out in support of the Islamic cultural center's construction.)
In a statement, Intersections International said that the description of the alleged perpetrator of the attack matched someone who had worked with the group as a volunteer.
"Our hearts go out to the cab driver, his family and any person who has dealt with such unacceptable violence," said the statement.