Michael Enright, 21, is facing charges of second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime, second-degree assault as a hate crime, second-degree aggravated harassment as a hate crime and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, said New York police Detective Mark Nell. Authorities said he was highly intoxicated at the time of the incident.
When Enright first got into Sharif’s cab Tuesday night, the conversation was cordial, said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance.
The suspect “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,” Desai said.
Then, after a few minutes of silence, Desai said Enright started cursing at Sharif and shouted “Assalamu Alaikum, consider this a checkpoint,” before slashing him.
Assalamu Alaikum is an Arabic greeting that means “peace be upon you.”
The taxi workers alliance said Sharif, 43, a practicing Muslim originally from Bangladesh, was slashed across the neck, face, shoulder and hand in the attack.
Bleeding heavily, Sharif was able to escape and flag down a police officer who arrested Enright, Desai said.
“I must take this opportunity to remind New Yorkers that we cannot and will not allow bias and ignorance to infect our communities and deny our hard-working, innocent residents the respect they deserve,” New York Gov. David Paterson said in a statement.
At the news conference, Sharif plans to call for an end to anti-Muslim rhetoric that has followed the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque.
The center is planned two blocks from the site of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.