Michael Enright
Steven Hirsch  /  AP
Michael Enright sits in a New York City courtroom, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, where he will face charges that include attempted murder as a hate crime. Enright is accused of slashing taxi driver Ahmed H. Sharif with a hand tool on Tuesday, Aug. 24, after the driver said he was Muslim. (AP Photo/Steven Hirsch, Pool)
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/27/2010 9:43:02 AM ET 2010-08-27T13:43:02

The college student accused of slashing a taxi driver because he was aMuslim has been taken to a New York City psychiatric ward.

Correction Department spokesman Stephen Morello said Michael Enright, of Brewster, N.Y., was taken from the Rikers Island jail to Bellevue Hospital on Thursday night.

Authorities said that on Tuesday a drunk Enright attacked a Manhattan cab driver, Bangladeshi native Ahmed Sharif, who had identified himself as a Muslim during a conversation.

The cab driver told police that the two struck up a conversation before Enright turned on him, screaming “This is a checkpoint, mother----er! I have to put you down.”

Enright reportedly proceeded to stab the driver’s neck and face with a Leatherman knife. Authorities say Enright uttered an Arabic phrase before slashing Sharif's face and neck.

The baby-faced student was drunk and incoherent at the time of his arrest and was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, police said.

He was later taken to court and remained jailed without bail Thursday on hate crime charges.

Enright's attorney told ABC News on Thursday that Enright does not harbor any enmity toward Islam or Muslims.

'Counter to everything that New Yorkers believe'
The attack has raised concerns among some in the Muslim community that the debate around a Islamic community center planned to be built two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has sparked anti-Muslim fervor.

FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko told msnbc.com , however, that New York City has not seen a change in the number of hate crimes reported by Muslims so far this year, but every report is taken seriously.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said authorities do not believe the attack signifies a trend in anti-Muslim crimes.

Meantime Mayor Michael Bloomberg met Thursday at City Hall with Sharif.

In a statement, the mayor said it was impossible to know the motive but connected the attack to the debate about an Islamic center planned near ground zero.  "This attack runs counter to everything that New Yorkers believe no matter what god we pray to," the mayor said in a statement.

Sharif, for his part, told reporters the project did not come up in his conversation with the passenger.

However, after meeting the mayor with his family, the driver said the motive was religion. "Of course it was for my religion — he attacked me after he knew I was a Muslim," he said.

Suspect's notebooks reveal no anti-Muslim sentiment
Enright once volunteered with an interfaith group that has supported the proposal for a mosque near Ground Zero.

He was found with two composition-style notebooks on him that contained details of his experiences embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan but did not appear to contain any anti-Muslim rants, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

Enright was carrying the journals in a bag along with an empty bottle of scotch, the official told the AP on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: NYC cabbie stabbed because he is Muslim

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