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Suspect in hate crime taken to psych ward

Michael Enright consulted with his lawyer, Jason Martin (left), during his arraignment in New York City Wednesday. Michael Enright consulted with his lawyer, Jason Martin (left), during his arraignment in New York City Wednesday. (Steven Hirsch/Pool)
Associated Press / August 28, 2010

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NEW YORK — A college student accused of slashing a taxi driver because he is a Muslim was moved from jail to a psychiatric ward, corrections officials said yesterday.

Michael Enright, 21, of Brewster, N.Y., was accused of using a folding knife to slash the face and neck of Ahmed H. Sharif, an immigrant from Bangladesh, on Tuesday night after asking whether he is a Muslim. Enright was moved from the Rikers Island jail to Bellevue Hospital on Thursday night, said Correction Department spokesman Stephen Morello.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it was not clear why he had been moved. Kelly said authorities see the attack as an isolated incident rather than evidence of a trend in anti-Muslim crimes.

Investigators obtained a warrant to search Enright’s six journals, but did not find anti-Muslim statements. Kelly described the journals as a chronicle of his time in Afghanistan. Enright traveled there in April for a senior video project at the School of Visual Arts. As part of the work, Enright spent time embedded with US troops.

The handwriting was difficult to decipher, and Kelly said officials have not done an in-depth analysis of the journals, but a cursory look did not reveal a motive or a deep-rooted racism.

The journals do, however, detail Enright’s drinking, and there was some indication that he had been in Alcoholics Anonymous, Kelly said. But it has not been determined whether he has a serious drinking problem. Police said he was drunk during the attack.

Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, who teaches politics and public administration at Dhaka University in Bangladesh, said the assault was at odds with American values.

“We worry more because there are many Bangladeshi taxi drivers,’’ he said. “They behave as patriotic American nationals more than they consider themselves Muslims or Bangladeshis. Such violence against them is not desirable, and we believe all believing in democracy and liberty will condemn it.’’

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