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Taxi driver stabbed after passenger asks if he's Muslim

By Jesse Solomon, CNN
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New York cab driver stabbed
  • Passenger allegedly stabs taxi driver after asking if he's Muslim
  • The suspect, who police say was intoxicated, was arrested
  • Michael Enright is charged with attempted murder and hate crimes

New York (CNN) -- A taxi driver is in stable condition Wednesday after allegedly being stabbed by a passenger who apparently asked if he was Muslim before attacking him, a taxi driver union official told CNN.

Police have identified the suspect as Michael Enright, a 21-year-old white male. New York Police Det. Mark Nell said Enright has been charged with four counts, including attempted murder and hate crimes charges, and he's expected to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said the cabbie who was attacked is Ahmed H. Sharif, 43, a practicing Muslim.

When he first got into the taxi Tuesday night, Desai said, Enright engaged in cordial conversation with Sharif.

He "started out friendly, asking Mr. Sharif about where he was from, how long he had been in America, if he was Muslim and if he was observing fast during Ramadan," said Desai, who has spoken with the cab driver.

Then, after a few minutes of silence, Desai said Enright started violently cursing at Sharif and shouted "Assalamu Alaikum, consider this a checkpoint," before slashing him in the throat, arms, and hand.

Though gushing blood, Sharif was able to escape and quickly flagged a police officer, who apprehended Enright, Desai said. Police said the suspect was highly intoxicated.

Nell said Enright has been charged with attempted murder in the second degree as a hate crime, assault in the second degree as a hate crime, aggravated harassment in the second degree as a hate crime, and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.

Sharif, a father of four who immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh 25 years ago, has been driving a cab for more than 15 years, according to a statement from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

"I never feel this hopeless and insecure before," he said in the statement.

The incident comes as tensions run high in the city over the proposed building of an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Desai said her organization, with 13,000 members, is warning drivers to be extra careful.

"This kind of bigotry only breeds more violence and makes taxi drivers all the more vulnerable on the streets where there are no bully pulpits or podiums to hide behind," Desai told CNN.