'Are You Muslim?' Question Leads to Cabbie Stabbing, Hate Crime Charge

When driver answered 'yes,' passenger pulled knife, say New York City police.

ByABC News
August 25, 2010, 2:11 PM

Aug. 25, 2010 — -- A New York City cab driver was attacked Tuesday evening just after 6 p.m. by a passenger who asked him if he was Muslim, says the NYPD. A spokesman for a New York City cabbie group blamed the attack on the proposed construction of an Islamic center near Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack, but police said they were not aware of any link.

According to police, passenger Michael Enright, a 21-year-old from Brewster, New York, hailed a taxi at 24th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan driven by Ahmed Sharif, a resident of Queens.

As the cab headed north on Third Avenue, Enright allegedly asked Sharif, who is of South Asian origin, "Are you Muslim?" When Sharif confirmed that he was Muslim, police say, Enright stabbed him multiple times with a Leatherman knife.

According to a statement from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drives, Enright allegedly screamed "Assalamu Alaikum," a common Islamic greeting meaning "Peace be upon you," before slashing Sharif across the face, neck and shoulders. Sharif also sustained defensive wounds to the arm and hand.

Police said Sharif, 43, 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.

"I feel very sad," said Sharif, according to the 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 felt this hopeless and insecure before."

"Right now, the public sentiment is very serious," said Sharif, in what seemed to be a reference to loud public debate over the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. "All drivers should be more careful."

No link to the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy has yet been established, however. "We have no reason to believe this is anything but an isolated incident," said an NYPD spokesperson.

Police said Sharif, 43, 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.

\"I feel very sad,\" said Sharif, according to the 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 felt this hopeless and insecure before.\"

\"Right now, the public sentiment is very serious,\" said Sharif, in what seemed to be a reference to loud public debate over the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. \"All drivers should be more careful.\"

No link to the \"Ground Zero Mosque\" controversy has yet been established, however. \"We have no reason to believe this is anything but an isolated incident,\" said an NYPD spokesperson.","publishedDate":"2010-08-25T18:11:21Z","contributors":[{"name":"ABC News","url":"","role":"","logo":"","logoAlt":""}],"modifiedDate":"2010-08-26T20:46:07Z","section":"Blotter","wordCount":365,"relatedTags":{"heading":"Related Topics","tags":[]},"lead":{"ratio":"16x9","disableForMobile":false,"type":"xl","mediaType":"image","alignCaptionToBody":true},"ads":{"Sticky":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"RightRail":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"InlineBox":{},"InlineOutstream":{"disabled":false},"Taboola":{"position":"bottom","pageType":"article","config":{"network":"abcnews-abcnews","mode":"thumbnails-a","container":"taboola-below-article-thumbnails","type":"article","targetType":"mix","placement":"Below Article Thumbnails"}}},"featuredVideo":null,"dateline":"Aug. 25, 2010 —","seo":{},"LivePromotion":{}},"autoUpdate":{"enabled":false,"topics":["general-elections-2020-balance-of-power"]}},"upw":{"balanceOfPower":{"electoral":{"header":"Biden Projected to be President-Elect","candidates":{"democrats":{"id":1036,"displayName":"Joe Biden","shortDisplayName":"J. 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