Official: Suspect In Cabbie Attack Carried War Notes Michael Enright is accused of slashing the neck and face of Ahmed H. Sharif after the New York City taxi driver said he was Muslim. Police said an empty bottle of scotch was found in a bag Enright was carrying, along with journals about his experiences in Afghanistan. Enright once volunteered with a group that promotes interfaith tolerance.
NPR logo Official: Suspect In Cabbie Attack Carried War Notes

Official: Suspect In Cabbie Attack Carried War Notes

A man accused of slashing a Muslim taxi driver in the throat was carrying journals describing his experiences embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a law enforcement official said Thursday.

The official said Michael Enright's journals did not appear to contain anti-Muslim rants. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Enright, 21, was charged Wednesday with using a folding knife to slash the neck and face of Ahmed H. Sharif, 43, after he said he was Muslim. Enright was so drunk and incoherent when he was arrested that he was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, police said.

The law enforcement official said an empty bottle of scotch was found in a bag Enright was carrying, along with the journals.

Enright, who once volunteered with a group that promotes interfaith tolerance and has supported a proposal for an Islamic center near ground zero, was later taken to court. A judge on Thursday ordered Enright held without bail on charges of attempted murder and assault as hate crimes and weapon possession. The handcuffed defendant, wearing a polo shirt and cargo shorts, did not enter a plea during the brief court appearance.

A taxi drivers' labor group quickly used the attack to denounce "bigotry" over plans to build an Islamic center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero, while a leading Islamic group claimed a recent increase in anti-Muslim attacks since the controversy began.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch supporter of the mosque project, invited Sharif, who is Bangladeshi, to visit City Hall on Thursday.

"This attack runs counter to everything that New Yorkers believe no matter what god we pray to," the mayor said in a statement.

Enright uttered "Assalamu aleikum," Arabic for "Peace be upon you," and told the driver, "Consider this a checkpoint," before attacking him Tuesday night inside the yellow cab in Manhattan, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Besides a serious neck wound, Sharif suffered cuts to his forearms, his face and one hand while trying to fend off Enright, prosecutor James Zeleta said while arguing against bail.

Defense attorney Jason Martin told the judge his client was an honors student at the School of Visual Arts, had volunteered in Afghanistan and lives with his parents in suburban Brewster, N.Y.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group, condemned the attack and said that anti-Islam sentiment has bubbled up with new fervor amid the debate about the downtown mosque, and that it's leading to more bias incidents.

A man also recently stormed a Queens mosque, shouting at worshippers and urinating on prayer rugs, spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. New York police said that they don't believe it was bias-related and that the suspect didn't know he was at a mosque. A mosque in Madera, Calif., was also recently vandalized.

Gov. David Paterson said Thursday that the cabbie stabbing "should certainly compel us to remembering ... this is what terrorists really want. That we are now fighting each other, this is making their day."

A representative for the volunteer group where Enright worked, Intersections International, called the situation "tragic."

"We've been working very hard to build bridges between folks from different religions and cultures," said the Rev. Robert Chase. "This is really shocking and sad for us."

The group, founded in 2007, says it's dedicated to promoting justice, reconciliation and peace among people of different faiths, cultures, ideologies, races and classes.

A trailer for Enright's school film, "Home of the Brave," was excerpted on the group's website. Enright followed his former high school classmate, Cpl. Alex Eckner, and his Army unit through basic training in Hawaii and their deployment to Afghanistan.

The film, set for release in 2011, shows soldiers training with weapons in a pool, running in formation and celebrating birthdays and Christmas while in basic training.

"You can't not be scared, that helps you operate," one soldier says in the trailer. "It helps you do your job."

Sharif, who has driven a cab for 15 years, was quoted in a news release from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance as saying the attack left him shaken.

"I feel very sad," he said. With the tension over the mosque, he added, "All drivers should be more careful."

Enright hailed the cab around 6 p.m. Tuesday, police Deputy Inspector Kim Royster said.

Sharif told authorities that during the trip Enright asked him whether he was Muslim. When he said yes, Enright pulled out a weapon - -believed to be a tool with a blade called a Leatherman -- and attacked him, Royster said.

After the assault, the driver tried to lock Enright inside the cab and drive to a police station, police said. The attacker jumped out a rear window about 15 blocks from where he hailed the cab.

An officer there noticed the commotion, found Enright slumped on a sidewalk and arrested him.