Was the Muslim Cab Driver Slashing the First "Ground Zero Mosque" Hate Crime? (Updated)

A cab driver picked up a 21-year-old fare yesterday in Murray Hill on 24th and Second around 6 p.m. The fare -- "visibly drunk" -- gets in the cab, and reportedly asks the driver: "Are you a Muslim?" The driver answers that he is. And what happens next? The fare, as we've now heard, stabs the cab driver. Here's where it gets strange:

Michael Enright of Brewster, New York, who was booked on charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon as a hate crime, is listed on Facebook as an employee of the New York City-based Intersections International, a "global initiative dedicated to promoting justice, reconciliation and peace across lines of faith, culture, ideology, race, class, national borders and other boundaries that divide humanity." And a few weeks ago, they announced their support for -- you guessed it -- the Cordoba House, better known to many as the "Ground Zero Mosque."

Just to recap, again, via the New York Daily News, Enright got in the cab last night "visibly drunk," asked the driver if he was a Muslim, and proceeded to do this:

[Takes] out the knife from his Leatherman tool and stabbed the unsuspecting driver in the throat, upper lip, arm and hand, police said.

The driver, unidentified, escaped the cab, locked Enright in the back seat, and called the cops, who arrested and booked Micheal at the 17th Precinct on charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon as a hate crime. He was presumably shipped off to Bellevue to get his head checked out and is being arraigned in court sometime today.

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This doesn't really distinguish itself from any other hate crime in too many ways, besides the fact that it was in broad daylight, and also, again, Enright was apparently trashed. But Murray Hill is, to many New Yorkers, a neighborhood synonymous with moneyed young white kids and the fratty bars they get sloshed at. But: This Michael Enright of Facebook is

(A) from Brewster, New York,
(B) Graduated from Brewster High School in 2007,
(C) is presumably living in New York City as he lists himself as a student at the School of Visual Arts and also,
(D) as an employee of Intersections International from August 2009 through "present."

And on August 3, 2010, Intersections International came out with this press release:

Intersections supports the efforts of its partner organizations, The Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, to develop a Community Center and Muslim prayer space, called "The Cordoba House," at 47-51 Park Place in Manhattan. The vision is to create a place where individuals--regardless of race, faith or ethnicity--will find a center for learning, art, cultural expression and athletics; and most importantly, a center guided by the universal values of all religions--compassion, generosity, peace and human dignity.

Enright's Facebook picture shows him wearing what appears to be a flack jacket in another country, for what it's worth, but that's not too telling of anything, which may or may not be Afghanistan, where the Michael Enright involved in this altercation was recently filming "military exercises" with a "combat unit" as reported by the New York Post.

We called up Intersections International to ask them if they employed a Michael Enright, and the operator who picked up the phone told us he was a "freelancer" and connected us with a press representative, whose voicemail we got. Ben Smith at Poltiico apparently isn't having much luck getting through, either.

There's always the possibility that there are two Michael Enrights from Brewster, New York, who are 21 years old and living in New York City -- entirely possible -- or there's one, and he's working for an initiative who recently released a statement of support for Park 51/The Cordoba House, and he just stabbed a cab driver explicitly because he told Enright he's a Muslim.

We're still waiting to hear back from Intersections International. We'll update with another post when we do.

UPDATE: Via the New York Post, this:

Enright told police he works for an Internet media company who had recently spent time with a combat unit in Afghanistan filming military exercises until this past May. He has been charged with attempted murder. Enright has had run-ins with the law in the past. He was charged with criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct last year and sentenced to a day in jail. In 2008, he received two summonses for underage drinking.

UPDATE 2: Michael Enright was one of the subjects in a story that appeared in The Journal News of Westchester County on March 22, 2010, entitled "Friend's film tells Marine's Afghan story." Told from the Marine Corps Base Hawaii:

In the theater that afternoon were Cpl. Alex Eckner and Michael Enright. Both Southeast residents are 2007 graduates of Brewster High School and friends since Henry H. Wells Middle School.

Eckner enlisted with the Marines before graduation and was at boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., by the end of June 2007. He fought with the Marines in Karma, Iraq, in 2008. Enright, who "grew up loving movies," enrolled at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Where they hope to meet again is Afghanistan's Helmand province.

In preparation for that, Enright spent a week in October at the Marines' Kaneohe Bay installation as they trained for their deployment. He filmed field exercises, Marines explaining why they enlisted and the "theater briefing."

As Marines filed into the Hawaii sunshine that day, they were men two weeks away from a seven-month combat tour. For all the seriousness embodied in their fatigues, they still carried a bit of youthful exuberance -- joking about getting a "bottle of Jack" or punching each other in the arm. It is that shift from teenager or twentysomething to warrior and back that Enright wants to capture in a film he is calling "Home of the Brave." The production is Enright's senior thesis as well as his foray into the film-festival world. "During his (Eckner's) last deployment, I realized there's never been an introspective look into what it's like being an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old soldier," Enright said. "They grow up really fast, and also they're still young and youthful. I thought that could be a really interesting story. Plus, he's my buddy. I wanted to do him justice."

UPDATE 3: Alex Pareene at Salon has some of Enright's footage up at War Room.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]


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