The Muslim cab driver attack

August 26, 2010 12:51:02 PM PDT
It might be premature to try to connect Michael Enright's knife attack on a Muslim cab driver to some greater anti-Muslim sentiment. But it also seems naïve to at least not be aware that hateful rhetoric often leads to hateful action.

Whatever the truth - this attack has people talking. And thinking.

If there's some "good" that comes out of all this, perhaps that could be it. If talking about it, and thinking honestly about all this, can tamp down the hateful rants, then we all win.

We're hearing more today from the attacked cab driver, Ahmed Sharif. By all accounts, he is a hard-working family man who has raised his four kids in New York while driving a taxi the past 15 years. Sharif was welcomed at New York City Hall today by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said it was important for Americans to have "a discourse" on controversial topics.

The Mayor was asked if the attack on Sharif by Enright, a 21-year-old film student who spent six weeks in Afghanistan this past spring making a documentary, was at all connected to opposition to the planned Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.

"You never know what's related," the Mayor said, trying to deflect the issue. "I wasn't in the cab."

The Mayor has become, to the surprise of some, the point man in this mosque debate. He has taken a strong stand against those would oppose the center. Clearly, he's not making a direct tie between the center and the attack. But just as clearly, he's leaving the door open to the possibility.

And what exactly happened in Afghanistan to Mr. Enright? That's one question we're looking into again tonight. He went over there with the backing of a group that advocates religious tolerance. But he clearly had something other than tolerance in mind if he indeed is guilty as charged of stabbing Mr. Sharif, after asking him, "Are you Muslim?"

Cops suggest he may have been intoxicated at the time, but that wouldn't explain away the hateful act.

And imagine what some Muslims must be feeling today, here in New York, where NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly today said hate crimes against Muslims are up this year. I took a cab today, and the driver from Bangladesh told me he was often scared by racist passengers, some of whom make no bones about their anti-Muslim feelings. But "I respect all religions," he told me. And if his passengers start talking hatefully, he says he just keeps quiet.

He told me he's especially frightened today, in the wake of the stabbing.

We'll have the latest on the attack and the fallout, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, it's one of the more personal decisions any of can make - whether to donate organs after our death.

The good news is that two million New Yorkers have signed up to be organ donors. Most of them do it when they renew their driver's license.

But tonight, our investigative reporter Jim Hoffer has the story how some simple safeguards were ignored in one case, and that made a donor out of someone who never wanted to be.

Meanwhile, thanks for your comments on my column yesterday about the proposed mosque. Here are some of them:

John Neil Ferrara, Sr. of Rahway, New Jersey, wrote that, "seems to me that we are living up to being thought of as 'Ugly Americans,' in many more ways then just one."

Lil Noonan of Jackson, New Jersey, offered that, "the problem is not with (the mosque's) existence, but with its location. No, it is not on 'Ground Zero' property. But the proximity to Ground Zero opens entirely too many wounds.

"Freedom of religion is fundamental to our value system, so much so that it is in our Constitution. However, this is not about freedom of religion.

"Yes, the Muslims that murdered our family members on 9/11 were extremists. Yes, I'm sure the vast majority of Muslims are moderate in their thinking and would never be a part of anything so horrific. But their own doctrine indicts anyone who does not fall in line with their religion. It is this very doctrine that gave the extremists the 'authority' to fly those planes into the Twin Towers. How, then, can anyone believe that a facility celebrating those same doctrines and standing in the shadow of this tragedy be acceptable? In a different location, far removed from the downtown area? Absolutely, no problem. But to place the mosque on the same streets where first responders walked, no ran, to try to save our people is an insult to their memory. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts."

Bob Edwards of New York wrote that, "this statement you wrote is what is not being emphasized enough, and it speaks to the most important point: 'What must Muslims around the world be thinking when they see that we're all-too-eager to send our troops invading Muslim countries under the guise of fighting radical Islamics, but we don't want moderate Muslims setting up shop in our back yards?'

"Americans are viewed as hypocrites because too often we act that way. They see us as having no business killing their own people in their own country in the name of 'freedom' when we won't allow a peaceful worship center in New York."

Lee Storm of Madison, New Jersey says that, "When I heard the news about that poor cab driver, my stomach crawled. We cry out against the terrorists and extremists who attack our country and our people, but are we any better? Hate crimes are terrorism; we have our own extremists spreading anti-Muslim propaganda on YouTube and other sites. It's frightening and downright discouraging to see how human beings treat human beings. When will people get the reality that we are all part of one race...the Human Race? We were all created by the same creator, but some have different names for that creator. We have got to stop acting like children and bullies and grow up to the fact that differences aren't necessarily bad. To quote Star Trek, IDIC ('Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination').

"Another thing? everyone talks about loving freedom and how glad they are to live in a 'free' country. Well, freedom also has responsibility. Be free, but be respectful. Harm None!

"Peace, Shalom, and if I knew the Islamic equivalent I'd put it here, too."

(Bill Ritter's note: Most Muslims say "As-Salaam-Alaikum" or some variation. It means, roughly, peace be unto you. And it's not a stretch to connect it to the Hebrew phrase for "peace be unto you" - Shalom Aleichem. We are all far more connected than we are different.)

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg with his AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.


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