A New York man has been charged with attempted murder as a hate crime for "slashing" a cab driver with a knife "across the neck, and then on the face from his nose to his upper lip." The man, 21-year-old Michael Enright, was visibly drunk. He asked the driver if he was Muslim and, some time after the driver answered yes, attacked the driver while shouting "Assalamu alaikum -- consider this a checkpoint!" The driver, 43-year-old Ahmed Sharif, escaped and flagged down a police car. Sharif was taken to the hospital and is reportedly in stable condition. Some observers, and the victim himself, have connected this incident to the controversy over the Cordoba Islamic center planned for Lower Manhattan. Others call it an isolated incident. Here's what they have to say.
- Driver Releases Statement: 'I Am Very Sad' Talking Points Memo's Eric Lach reports, "The New York City cab driver allegedly stabbed repeatedly by a 21-year-old man who first asked if the driver was Muslim has released a statement through the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, saying 'I have been here more than 25 years,' Ahmed H. Sharif said in a statement. 'I have been driving a taxi more than 15 years. All my four kids were born here. I never feel this hopeless and insecure before. Right now, the public sentiment is very serious (because of the Ground Zero Mosque debate.) All drivers should be more careful.'"
- Attacker Involved with Cordoba Center, Afghanistan The Village Voice's Foster Kamer reports that Enright "is listed on Facebook as an employee of the New York City-based Intersections International, a New York-based 'global initiative dedicated to promoting justice, reconciliation and peace across lines of faith, culture, ideology, race, class, national borders and other boundaries that divide humanity.' And a few weeks ago, they announced their support for -- you guessed it -- the Cordoba House, better known to many as the 'Ground Zero Mosque.' ... Enright's Facebook picture shows him wearing what appears to be a flack jacket in another country, which may or may not be Afghanistan." The New York Post confirms, "Enright told police he works for an Internet media company who had recently spent time with a combat unit in Afghanistan filming military exercises until this past May."
- Enright's Film from Afghanistan Salon's Alex Pareene digs up a press release that says, "Enright is attracting national attention as he documents the service of his high school buddy from training through deployment in a combat zone with Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, based out of Hawaii and known as the 'Lava Dogs.'" Pareene embeds two videos from Enright's work here.
- Inevitable Result of Anti-Mosque Hysteria Law blogger Elie Mystal writes, "Here's the thing: believing that everybody who opposes the Park51 project is a secret racist who wants to kill Muslims is just as stupid as believing the entire Muslim community is somehow responsible for 9/11. There are violent and crazy people out there. Park 51 developer Sharif El-Gamal didn't hijack any planes. Park51 opponent and New York Governor David Paterson didn't stab any cab drivers. But when the rhetoric gets ratcheted up like this, these types of things are kind of predictable. If you run around making logically fallacious arguments, eventually some crackpots will act on them. If you tell enough people that they should be afraid or offended by a house of worship, then eventually some idiot will take it to the next level. So, now that there's blood in the streets, can we all tamp down the rhetoric just a little bit?"
- Unclear Picture on Allegations of 'Tide of Islamaphobia' Politico's Ben Smith writes that the incident "produced an immediate round of recriminations over its connection to opposition to a New York Islamic Center and an apparent rising tide of Islamophobia. But as often at the intersection of politics and violent crime, the story doesn't appear to fit any easy stereotype." Smith cites Enright's connection to the pro-Cordoba group and his film work.
- Anti-Muslim Republicans Are Responsible Middle Eastern studies professor and blogger Juan Cole writes, "It wasn't the 21-year-old Michael Enright who drunkenly slashed his New York city cab driver after asking 'Are you Muslim?' It was the Republican National Committee. From August of 2006, the RNC decided to demonize Muslims and Islam as a campaign ploy, to scare apparently easily spooked white Christians. ... Newt Gingrich and Rick Lazio may as well have kept Enwright in their basements in chains and whipped him into a frenzy as to spew their hatred on the airwaves."
- Doesn't Indicate American Islamophobia National Review's Jonah Goldberg downplays the incident while reminding us that sometimes Muslim-Americans commit violent acts, portraying the two in a very different light. "This is almost certainly an isolated incident, in the sense that Michael Enright was almost surely acting alone. Indeed, if he was a lone psycho, that would mean that by any measure this is far more of an 'isolated incident' than any of the recent Islamic terrorist attacks the Obama administration and the press insisted were isolated incidents. By the left's own logic, there is, if anything, far less reason to say this attack (if the early reports are accurate) reflects American 'Islamophobia' than there was to say that the Ft. Hood shooter or the attempted Christmas and Times Square bombers represented the worldwide Muslim community."
- How Will Media Handle This? The Guardian's Michael Tomasky sighs, "Anyone surprised that a Muslim cab driver was stabbed in New York? If you are surprised, you've been sleepwalking the last two weeks. ... I'll be interested to read the excuses on this thread. Just one nut. Obviously didn't mean to kill him. Et cetera. It's worth observing also the way the liberal and conservative partisan media play this kind of thing. ... Maybe it's correct not to hype it too much, not make it too political. But it's certainly news."