Updated 08/26/2010 05:49 PM
Attacked Muslim Cab Driver Meets The Mayor, Speaks Out At City Hall
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A Muslim cab driver who was the victim of an alleged bias attack this week met Thursday with Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall, where he said his religion played a role in his brutal stabbing.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he personally supported Ahmed Sharif, nearly two days after the 43-year-old Queens cab driver was attacked after he picked up 21-year-old Michael Enright at 24th Street and Second Avenue in Gramercy, Manhattan.
Enright is being held without bail after his arraignment on multiple hate crime charges, including attempted murder and assault. Police say Enright was drunk, asked Sharif whether he was Muslim, and then slashed the cab driver across the throat, shoulders, arm, hands and lip.
"The mayor is continuing help and support to make sure I'm safe. My family is safe and his support and help is going to be continued," said Sharif at Thursday's press conference. "I feel a lot safer, better than before."
Sharif also says, in spite of what happened, he still loves his adopted country.
Bloomberg offered Sharif's wife and four U.S.-born children "I Love New York" merchandise and said he wanted to dispel the notion that the city suffers from anti-Muslim prejudice.
"I'm very sad that we are here today. This should never have happened and hopefully it won't happen again," said the mayor. "People should understand that we can have a discourse, that's what the First Amendment is all about, that's what America is all about. But being violent and disrespecting one another is not why America was formed."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that two journals filled with anti-Muslim comments were found on Enright's person. The entries dated from when the student filmmaker was in Afghanistan to film a documentary about a U.S. Marines unit and to volunteer for Intersections International, a Manhattan-based group that promotes peace among religions.
The New York City Police Department is waiting for a warrant to go through those journals, to see what they contain.
Some local Muslims say the attack on Sharif, who has lived in the United States for the last quarter century, is part of a larger backlash over the controversy over Park 51, the proposed Islamic center and mosque near the World Trade Center.
Officials at Intersections International, which as a group supports the Park51 Islamic Center, said the allegations against Enright are "deplorable" but that the group would help Enright with his "healing process."
During Wednesday's arraignment, the defense raised the possibility that Enright suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Afghanistan.
Enright's father declined to comment to the press, but held his head in his hands as the charges against his son were read in court.
During a morning radio interview on WOR, Governor David Paterson said it is too early to link the individual attack with the ongoing debate over the Downtown Manhattan Islamic center.
"This situation is under investigation and quite often you may have a person who is mentally disturbed who is probably going to ignite, and they're going to attack someone somewhere," said Paterson. "This is just what they were thinking about when they conducted the attack."
Enright did not enter a plea and is due back in court on Monday.