Victim of a toxic atmosphere of hate

August 26, 2010

On August 25, New York cab driver Ahmed Sharif was viciously attacked, reportedly by a passenger in his cab, who first asked him if he was a Muslim before slashing and stabbing him. "I feel very sad," Sharif said in a statement released by the Taxi Workers' Alliance. "I have been here more than 25 years. I have been driving a taxi more than 15 years. All my four kids were born here. I never felt this hopeless and insecure before."

In this statement, the Coalition to Stop Islamophobia in America describes the context of the attack--the rising tide of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hysteria over the misnamed "Ground Zero mosque"--and calls on New Yorkers to come together to protest this growing bigotry.

ACCORDING TO investigators from the New York City Police Department, reported on Wednesday, August 25, Ahmed H. Sharif, a yellow cab driver, was stabbed by a passenger on Tuesday evening for answering "yes" when asked if he was a Muslim.

Police say the passenger asked the driver, "Are you Muslim?" When the driver said "yes," the passenger pulled a knife and slashed him in the throat, arm and lip.

This violent attack is particularly disturbing in the context of the toxic atmosphere of Islamophobia produced by opponents of the Park51 community project in Lower Manhattan, insistently but incorrectly referred to by its opponents (and much of the media) as the "Ground Zero mosque."

Documented cases of hate crimes against Muslims have been on the rise throughout the United States in recent months. The violent and racist rhetoric espoused by protesters at this weekend's rallies near Ground Zero, including a near mob attack on an African American bystander, are a fearful sign of potential violence to come.

Protesters stand up against anti-Muslim bigotry in New York
Protesters stand up against anti-Muslim bigotry in New York

Enough is enough. The New York City Coalition to Stop Islamophobia wholeheartedly supports Ahmed H. Sharif and his family, and all other victims of anti-Muslim bigotry.

We call upon all New Yorkers to join us in denouncing the rising tide of Islamophobia in our city and our country, and to assure members of the Muslim community that we will stand with them in resisting this bigotry that has been unleashed.

We call upon the leaders of hate groups such as Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and their supporters to end their campaign of venomous falsehoods, intimidation and hate speech against the Park51 project and its supporters, as well as against the Muslim community more generally. SIOA is currently running similar venomous advertisements on taxis and buses around the U.S., including in cities where a majority of taxi drivers are from predominantly Muslim countries of origin.

History has taught us that such inflammatory speech can only lead to violence, especially when the leaders of such groups speak admiringly of avowedly violent hate groups such as the English Defense League.

What you can do

The Coalition to Stop Islamophobia in America is a grassroots organization mobilizing against racism, bigotry and hatred against Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities. For information on how you can get involved, visit their Web page here or on Facebook.

In particular, we call upon SIOA to stop politicizing the grief that all New Yorkers will feel this September 11. Bringing a figure like Geert Wilders, who has been prosecuted in his home country of the Netherlands for his violent hate speech, to speak on September 11 is a deliberate provocation on what should be a solemn day of mourning. We hope all New Yorkers will join us in denouncing this incitement to further violence and hatred against our Muslim neighbors.

Finally, we call upon both local and national politicians, as well as media outlets, to stop using the so-called "Mosque controversy" for partisan political ends, and to take a strong and unequivocal stance against Islamophobia.

The hate crime of stabbing a taxi driver because he identifies as Muslim is a clear expression of Islamophobia. All those who have played a role in encouraging the current climate of bigotry against Muslims share some of the responsibility for this attack.

If Islamophobia is allowed to go unchallenged, we will see more violence against our neighbors. We invite all New Yorkers to join us to stop Islamophobia.

Further Reading

From the archives