Stabbed Cabbie Joining the Mosque Debate

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Photo: Steven Hirsch-Pool/AP, J.B Nicholas / Splash News ( Sharif)

As confused friends and colleagues sing the praises of Michael Enright, the 21-year-old who they had all considered a pretty kind and tolerant dude before he viciously attacked Muslim cab driver Ahmed H. Sharif on Monday night, the conversation about the broader context of the incident and its relation to the mosque debate continues. Sharif, in fact, will make the connection explicit today, when, after meeting with Mayor Bloomberg, he will "call for an end to anti-Muslim rhetoric that has followed the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque" on the steps of City Hall.

Not everyone is convinced that the mosque debate and yesterday's hate crime have anything to do with one another. This opinion was particularly prevalent in the Post today. Columnist Jonah Goldberg writes:


It's unavoidable that many will cite this as proof of the national wave of "Islamophobia," touted by Time magazine and other media outlets. We'll have to wait for the facts, but even if the allegations prove true, one assault doesn't a national trend make....

The mosque controversy has ignited passions, which some might see as evidence of how ill-conceived the idea was in the first place. And, justified or not, this stabbing will be seen in that context. But we shouldn't let anyone suggest that this criminal reflects anybody but himself.


And a Post editorial concurs, while calling for the mosque debate to remain civil:


Some are going to say the attack, which occurred in Midtown Tuesday evening, is part of a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes -- and was driven by intemperate rhetoric from opponents of the mosque.

But this is a complicated story....

Not everybody who's opposed to the project is purely motivated; but not everybody in favor of it is ecumenical.

Somewhere in between reside the vast majority of New Yorkers -- folks who may hold strong views on the topic but who agree with Mayor Bloomberg that the conversation must be civil.

Tuesday's stabbing must be taken for what it was: the act of a disturbed individual who is now in custody.

Let the debate continue. Calmly.


Unfortunately, the debate has never been civil or very calm. Though many people who oppose the mosque surely have nothing against Muslims, it's also undeniable that many of those who protest the loudest and the most vehemently do. They talk of mosques as terrorism incubators, and the threat of Sharia law taking over the country. They shout "Mohammed's a pig." Perhaps this particular attack was going to happen no matter what, but surely the climate right now is making such incidents more likely. Last night a drunk man barged into a Queens mosque and urinated on prayer rugs while shouting anti-Muslim slurs. Another isolated incident? Or the continuation of a scary new trend?

The Islamophobia myth [NYP]
The cabby attack [NYP]
Cabby 'stabber' pals say ballistic outburst is un-reel [NYP]
Suspect accused of attacking Muslim cab driver in hate crime 'wanted better for everyone' [NYDN]
Stabbed Muslim cabbie to enter Ground Zero mosque spat [MSNBC]
'Drunk' desecration at mosque [NYP]