The man accused of stabbing a Muslim NYC cab driver hardly has the background one might expect from someone charged with a hate crime committed in a drunken rage.
Michael Enright is a film student at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and has been working with the Intersections International, an interfaith and multicultural effort which seeks to promote justice and peace. The project’s website is strongly supportive of the Cordoba House project in lower Manhattan and videos of its leader, Imam Faisel Rauf, are posted on their website.
The 21-year-old aspiring filmmaker had been to Afghanistan recently, working on a documentary on a Marine unit his high school buddy served with. His earlier efforts to embed with his friend were the subject of a profile in the local paper.
The documentary he was working on was “completely nonpolitical,” Enright told the newspaper. “It’s just showing the young people who are spearheading our foreign policy. They’re doing what I don’t have to do.”
Enright told police he had been working with an Internet media company and had recently spent time with a combat unit in Afghanistan filming military exercises according to The New York Post.
A former high school classmate of Enright’s, speaking to TPMMuckraker on background, expressed shock about the crime and spent the morning eliminating electronic footprints that connected the two. “It’s just disgusting, sad, horrific,” he said, adding that, like the group Enright was working with, he supports the Cordoba Project.
Intersection International released this statement:
We have learned about an incident wherein one of our volunteers may have been charged with a hate crime in a stabbing incident that involved a New York City cab driver on Tuesday evening.
The alleged perpetrator is not an employee and has never been an employee of Intersections. There is a person who fits the description of the alleged perpetrator who has worked with us as a volunteer, but until we get further confirmation of the details in this incident, we cannot comment.
Our hearts go out to the cab driver, his family and any person who has dealt with such unacceptable violence.
Intersections is on record, explicitly and consistently, as promoting interfaith dialogue and cross cultural cooperation, specifically with our Muslim brothers and sisters. We deplore violence and any act that may be categorized as a hate crime.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all parties in this tragic incident.
Intersection had described Enright as a “freelancer” earlier in the day, according to Village Voice. Earlier this year, they described their relationship with Enright as “collaborative” and said Enright’s “life and interest in film, military and doing good came together in his volunteering to assist us in documenting the dialogues and creating a digital library to further the work.”
Late Update: A law enforcement source tells Ben Smith that Enright made “nonsensical statements” to police after his arrest, but that investigators do not see an evident connection to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” project.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg released this statement:
I spoke today with the taxi driver who was stabbed last night in an attack that appears to have been motivated by anti-Muslim bias. I assured him that ethnic or religious bias has no place in our city, and to help show that, I invited him to City Hall to meet with me tomorrow, an invitation he accepted.
This attack runs counter to everything that New Yorkers believe, no matter what God we may pray to. I want to thank the men and women of the NYPD for their quick response in apprehending the suspect who was arrested and charged with attempted murder as a hate crime. We will continue to do everything possible to crack down on any crime that targets someone because of who they are or what they believe.
Late, Late Update: Michael Enright was arraigned on a hate crimes charges this afternoon. Classmates told TPMMuckraker that Enright had a serious drinking problem, and a top Muslim American organization said the event shows the dangers of extreme anti-Islamic rhetoric.
Final Update: Enright embedded with Task Force Leatherneck in the Helmand province for five weeks during April and early May 2010, Lt. Cmdr. Katie Kendrick, a public affairs officer with the British Royal Navy, told TPMMuckraker. Enright was registered as working for TV-Worldwide, and was filming a documentary on the 1st Battalion/3rd Marines home-based in Hawaii.
Here’s a trailer for “Home of The Brave,” the movie Enright was working on:
Here’s a video Enright made for Intersection International:
Additional reporting by Rachel Slajda, Megan Carpentier and Eric Lach (Ed. note: this post has been updated.)