New York’s Muslims in danger?

Had no one decided on opening this Islamic Centre in Manhattan, a driver assaulted by a 21-year-old tipsy guy would have been just another crime. Not a hate crime. Is there anything like a love crime? Yes, of course, there are crimes of passion and we suddenly seem to have become a world desperately passionate about religions we know precious little about – our own or those of others.

Ahmed Sharif a Bangladeshi, was assaulted by Michael Enright. The newspaper versions interestingly add a twist here and a turn there, making them seem different from each other. Some say the attacker greeted the cabbie with an “Assalamalaikum” just as he entered; others say he uttered those words after verifying if he was a Muslim. Some say he cursed; others says he made jokes about Ramadan after asking Sharif how he was faring in the month of fasting. Some say Enright brought out a knife and slashed the cabbie’s throat and neck; some pictures show him with chest wounds. This was through the plastic partition that divides passenger and driver. Some say these are slashes; some quote doctors as saying that had it been an inch deeper he would have died.

It was not; he did not. But I can already see everyone jumping on the mosque at Ground Zero bandwagon.

The question is: why is every crime being connected to this Cordoba whatever that is to be built?

The driver says he was attacked because of his religion. It is possible, but it may not be. Worse, he says or it is implied on his behalf that it is because of the controversy over this centre. Please, profiling has been going on since 9/11 and suspicions about different groups of people have been there always.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg felt it was necessary to comment and said:

"This attack runs counter to everything that New Yorkers believe, no matter what God we may pray to.” 

Why is the religion of the victim emphasised and not the attacker’s then? How does the mayor know what all New Yorkers believe? This incident did not take place at the site of the proposed building, so why is Mr. Bloomberg entering the fray? We know he thinks the Centre will bring about amity and all that but he does not have to use unrelated incidents to further his agenda.

This is a political issue but why politicise every act? Those opposing the structure have also got into the act. Republican mayoral candidate Carl Paladino’s spokesman, Michael Caputo, said:

"Violence in New York City is nothing new, no matter who stabs whom....Blaming the debate over whether there should be a mosque at Ground Zero for the violence in New York City is a simple-minded way to heat up the debate even more."

True. So, he should have kept silent. Most people should have. But it is too good an opportunity to pass up. Enright’s friends talk about how tolerant he was. Reports say the cabbie was against the centre. This is all just so very convenient. Never mind that.Now it is about Muslim cab drivers who have expressed nervousness, according to Bhairavi Desai, the director of the taxi drivers' alliance:

"In light of the Ground Zero mosque debate, 'Are you Muslim?' has taken on new meaning."

The cops did reach the site, Enright, who incidentally has had a little past of some violent behaviour and was booked for trespassing last year, is in custody without bail. Why rake it up? Perhaps in the course of that ride other crimes might have been committed in New York and no one even knows or cares.

As for hate crime, heck, if only minds could be taken into custody then there would be many, many more. So, it’s time to cut out the claptrap on all sides and not give religious identities to every darn thing.

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