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What Hate Looks Like: NYC Taxi Driver Slashed Because He’s a Muslim

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I knew it would happen; it was not a question of if but when: a New York City taxi driver, Ahmed Sharif, was recently slashed by a passenger because he is a Muslim. You would think that Sharif would be filled with anger, but yesterday on the steps of City Hall he professed love for his city, for his country, and a desire to just live in peace.

Twenty-five years ago Sharif came to the United States from Bangladesh. His dream, like so many who came before him, was to come to here for a better life. Lost in all the hubbub about the so-called Ground Zero mosque are the people like Sharif who want to live here because it is supposed to be the land of the free, the home of the brave. Isn’t it strikingly obvious enough that people from Muslim countries want to come here, leaving places of oppression for a fresh start in our country? It is a story told again and again over the decades. The “golden door” noted on the base of the Statue of Liberty beckons people from all over the world to seek the dream of freedom.

Sharif was driving his taxi in the city on Tuesday night, working hard to support his wife and four children. All was well until a drunken passenger, Michael Enright, a 21-year-old student at the School of Visual Arts got into Sharif’s cab and asked him if he was a Muslim. Enright then reached around the security partition and stabbed Sharif several times. Somehow Sharif was able to get out of the car, lock the perpetrator in the taxi, and get the police, who arrested Enright.

Mayor Bloomberg invited Sharif, his wife, and children to City Hall. Bloomberg gave the children gifts and used the opportunity to talk about Enright and his disgraceful actions. Bloomberg to his credit did not use the occasion to discuss the mosque controversy, but it inevitably came up as a reporter asked Sharif if he felt the attack was because of the mosque situation. Sharif, showing a dexterity for handling reporters that more politicians should have, said, “We didn’t have a talk about the mosque.” Here’s the case of a man who should be angry, should be outraged, but he handled the question well instead of fanning the flames.

Thankfully, Sharif is going to be okay, but the wounds he bears are not solely the responsibility of his attacker. Politicians on both sides of the debate regarding the mosque here in New York City are just as culpable, for they have used this controversy to stoke the fires of their own agendas, regardless of how much that enrages people and makes the issue hotter than furnace of hatred that caused Enright to attack Sharif.

Meanwhile, across the oceans somewhere in a dank and dusty cave, the architects of 9/11 and their minions are huddled around a fire and laughing their heads off. They couldn’t have asked for a better gift than to have an American attack a Muslim on the streets of New York. One might say to the other how it would have been better if the cabbie had been murdered. Another might wish for a few more Muslims to be attacked and killed. The more the better for them. Nothing helps them more in their recruiting efforts. Nothing.

9/11 seems long ago now, but for many of us who lost people that day, it is always present. As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is not dead; it’s not even past.” New Yorkers will never forget 9/11, and no one in the United States should either, but in remembering those loved and lost, we also have to remember the essence of what makes this country great, making it shine like a beacon of hope for everyone else in the world.

We should take a good look at an innocent man like Ahmed Sharif. He is not responsible for those planes that ruined our city, or the mosque that people fear will ruin it too. No, Sharif is just a working stiff; like most of us, he is trying to get through each day, work hard, and get his little piece of the American dream. If someone tries to stop him or others like him from attaining that, then they are not any better than the terrorists who flew those planes on 9/11, but you know as well as I do that we are better than that. Much better. Now is the time to stop and show the rest of the world.

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com Nancy

    Exactly. Well done.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Thanks, Nancy.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Victor,

    The media is also culpable.

  • http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com Tom Degan

    It has always been easy to laugh at these people. Let’s face it; the extreme right wing is a satirist’s dream. But in the last year-and-a-half their message has gotten too strange to take with a mere grain of salt. Now they’re encouraging the citizenry to hate a certain minority based solely on their religion. Tell me, just what the hell does that remind you of?

    Deutschland! Deutschland!
    Uber Alles!

    Ah! The memories!

    And that message is resonating, too. On Tuesday evening some genius by the name of Michael Enright hailed a cab on East 24th Street. After a few minutes of amiable conversation he asked the driver if he was a Muslim. When the man answered in the affirmative, Enright produced a knife and proceeded to slash him about the face and shoulders. The victim, who is doing fine by the way, told the press, “This is the first time I felt like I didn’t belong in America.” The hysteria is palpable.

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Yes, we can blame the press too. The story about the mosque never goes away.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    I refer to it as a community center, and we sure need some community with one-another.

  • zingzing

    looking into this guy’s past, one is a bit befuddled by his actions. apparently, he worked for an organization that was dedicated to communication between islam and the west. his friends reported that what he did was completely out of character. the “checkpoint” reference would suggest some sort of flashback to his days in the middle east, although he wasn’t really there that long. also, he’d had some troubles with alcoholism, but had been sober for most of a year (according to his friends) before this occurred. he had to be taken to the hospital rather than jail because he was so drunk.

    this looks to me like a crazy, alcohol-induced aberration, (but still not the kind you let pass as just an aberration), not like a symptom or example of right-wing hatred. but who knows what was going on in his head.

  • throwback

    People are very ignorant when it comes to hating other individuals that are complete strangers. I was walking to my car the other day and saw a man approaching me with his shirt off. He had several “white-supremacy” tattoos, swastikas etc. I found myself starting to grow anger at him just from the look he gave me. But as i drove off i gave him a huge smile. Hate on brings more hate, do not sink so low to ever hate someone.

  • Baronius

    Tom, the guy who did this is a peace activist. Why are you blaming the right wing?

  • Grace56

    More leftist fiction…..this guy was a pro-mosque supporter

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Oh, well, that’s all right, then.

  • KELLIKO

    > I don’t mind people from other countries coming to America (for good reasons) but I want them to respect OUR traditions and not bring their own and expect us to adhere to them. Anyone coming to America must learn to live ‘OUR’ WaY and that means NO Sharia Law, NO odd ways of dressing (if those ways conflict with our safety, like covered faces), or beliefs that conflict with our ways and our Constitution. < When they come to Rome they must live as the Romans do > – then we will all get along. If they can’t do that then they don’t belong here.