Anti Muslim Bigotry

What is the explanation?

Earlier today, the New York Times reported on  a terrible hate crime:

A cabdriver was attacked Tuesday by a knife-wielding passenger who made anti-Muslim remarks, the police said.

The passenger, Michael Enright, 21, of Brewster, N.Y., hailed the cab at Second Avenue and East 24th Street around 6 p.m. Tuesday, the police said. Twenty blocks north, they said, he slashed and stabbed the 43-year-old driver in his throat, face and arm.

The driver, identified by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a drivers’ group, as Ahmed H. Sharif, 43, stopped the cab and approached a police officer on Third Avenue near 42nd Street. Mr. Enright was arrested at the scene.

According to the taxi workers’ alliance, Mr. Sharif’s fare started the ride asking him in a friendly way if he was Muslim, whether he was observing Ramadan, and how long he had been in the United States.

After falling silent for a few minutes, the passenger began cursing and screaming, and then yelled, “Assalamu alaikum — consider this a checkpoint!” and slashed Mr. Sharif across the neck, and then on the face from his nose to his upper lip, the alliance said. (“Assalamu alaikum” — “peace be with you” — is a traditional Muslim greeting.)

Both men were taken to Bellevue Hospital Center. The driver was in stable condition. A law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Mr. Enright was “very drunk” at the time of the attack.

“I feel very sad,” Mr. Sharif said in a statement released by the taxi workers’ alliance. “I have been here more than 25 years. 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.”

He added that “right now, the public sentiment is very serious” because oftensions over Park51, the proposed Islamic center that some critics call the “ground zero mosque.”

The police charged Mr. Enright with attempted murder as a hate crime, assault, aggravated harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. He was awaiting arraignment on Wednesday.

But there’s a strange aspect to this story. Michael Tomasky, on CiF, reacted in much the same way that I did, when I was told that a Muslim cab driver had been slashed. Here’s what he said:

Anyone surprised that a Muslim cab driver was stabbed in New York? If you are surprised, you’ve been sleepwalking the last two weeks.

Now imagine a Muslim American had stabbed a “regular” American in Manhattan, and think about what the conservative media would be doing…

Remember the guy who drove to San Francisco to kill liberals a few weeks ago, thwarted only because he got popped for drunk driving on the way. Just isolated incidents, right? Right.

Here’s the twist:

The man charged with the anti-Muslim slashing and stabbing of a cab driver Tuesday is a volunteer with a nonprofit that works to promote cross-cultural understanding.

The man, Michael Enright, 21, volunteers for Intersections International, a group “dedicated to justice, reconciliation and peace across lines of faith, culture, ideology, race, class, national borders and other boundaries that divide humanity.”

The group, run by the Collegiate Churches of New York, would not immediately comment on Mr. Enright other than to confirm that he volunteered with the group’s “veteran-civilian dialogue program.”

“Intersections is on record, explicitly and consistently, as promoting interfaith dialogue and cross cultural cooperation, specifically with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” the group said in a statement. “We deplore violence and any act that may be categorized as a hate crime.”

Mr. Enright, who is also a student at the School of Visual Arts, recently traveled to Afghanistan for his senior thesis film about the experiences of young American soldiers deployed there.

A US blogger, Ben Smith, adds:

The alleged anti-Muslim cabbie stabber made “nonsensical statements” to police after his arrest, a law enforcement source told me just now, adding to the puzzle over what drove Michael Enright to the apparent hate crime.

But the source said investigators see no evident connection to the Park51 project.

A spokeswoman, Sara Reef, said [Intersections] isn’t sure it’s the same person, but if it is, that they’d had no warning signs from Enright, who had volunteered for a year at the group. “He never said anything negative,” she said.

The New York Times seems to be sure that it is the same person – but who knows? Here is a page which discusses some of his activities at Intersections.

This is both tragic and extremely odd.