Updated 08/25/2010 11:43 PM
Man Who Allegedly Attacked Taxi Driver Arraigned On Hate Crime Charges
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A Putnam County man was arraigned Wednesday on hate crime charges in connection with an attack on a Muslim cab driver.
Michael Enright, 21, has been charged with second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime, second-degree assault as a hate crime, criminal possession of a weapon as a hate crime and aggravated harassment.
He is being held without bail after not entering a plea at Manhattan Criminal Court.
Police say the driver, 43-year-old Queens resident Ahmed Sharif, picked up Enright early Tuesday morning at 24th Street and Second Avenue in the Gramercy neighborhood of Manhattan. After riding a few blocks uptown, Enright asked the driver if he was a Muslim and was celebrating Ramadan, according to police.
When Sharif said he was Muslim, police say Enright yelled "Assalamu alaikum," which is Arabic for "Peace be unto you," pulled a knife and slashed the driver on the throat, arm, hand and lip.
Cab driver Ahmed Sharif shows the large arm wound he allegedly received from his passenger, Michael Enright.
Sharif told reporters in his house in Jamaica, Queens that he felt he was going to die during the attack.
"I saw here on his face so much hate and [he was] so upset, so angry at me because of my religion," Sharif told reporters in his home in Jamaica, Queens. "It's a shock to me."
Following the attack, Sharif was able to lock Enright in the back of the cab until police arrived.
Police say Enright, who has previously been charged with criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct, was also drunk at the time of the attack.
"Right now he is terrified, he's shocked at the allegations. So right now, we're going to try to gather as much information as possible and figure out where we're going to go from there," said Enright's attorney, Jason Martin.
Enright's father, who appeared stunned at the charges, did not speak with reporters at the courthouse. During the proceedings, he could be seen holding his head in his hands as the charges were read aloud.
Enright's lawyer says his client has done volunteer work overseas, including in Afghanistan.
Intersections International, a group that promotes interfaith dialogue and supports the proposed Islamic center and mosque in Lower Manhattan, confirms to NY1 that Enright has been a volunteer with the organization for about a year.
The head of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance suggests the attack was provoked by anti-Muslim sentiment surrounding the controversial project.
"This violence is what that bigotry produces,” said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. “I think many of us are not shocked, we just feel incredibly enraged that this kind of violence would occur."
In an effort to calm fears, Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement saying, "This attack runs counter to everything that New Yorkers believe, no matter what God we may pray to...We will continue to do everything possible to crack down on any crime that targets someone because of who they are or what they believe."
Sharif is currently recovering from his physical and psychological wounds.
He is scheduled to meet with the mayor on Thursday.
Enright is due back in court on August 30.