By Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — The Muslim cabdriver who was stabbed in an apparent hate crime says he still sees the knife that almost killed him whenever he closes his eyes.
"I still am scared," said Ahmed Sharif, who met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials at City Hall Thursday afternoon. He said during a press conference on the steps outside that he was still in shock after he was allegedly attacked by a drunken film student and "still I have a view of the knife whenever I close my eyes."
Sharif, a 43-year-old Bangladesh native who lives in Queens, unbuttoned his white shirt to point out slash wounds across his neck and on his upper right arm, which had been sewn with dozens of black stitches.
Hours after Sharif displayed the wounds from alleged attacker Michael Enright, the accused attempted murderer was transferred from Riker's Island to Bellevue Hospital's prison ward.
Enright was transferred from jail to Bellevue about 7 p.m. on the recommendation of the medical staff at Riker's Island, who thought he needed a full psychiatric evaluation, a source told DNAinfo.
Earlier in the day, Sharif, his wife and four young children had a private meeting with Bloomberg, who described the attack on the cab driver as "a disgrace."
"Thank God nothing worse happened," the mayor said. "It’s very sad that we are here today. This should never have happened."
Sharif, somber and visibly weak from the attack, described the ordeal, which began when he picked up an allegedly drunken passenger Tuesday night.
After being asking if he was a Muslim, the passenger yelled "al salaam a'alaykum," the Arabic greeting meaning "peace upon you," and slipped his hand back through the taxi's partition and began slashing Sharif, on the arm, face, neck and hand, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
"This still is a very sad and shocked me, and sometimes I feel very lonely and unsafe," Sharif told reporters on the steps of City Hall, where he was joined by more than 100 members of the Alliance and other supporters who held signs that read "Fear Mongering Leads to Hate Crimes" and "Equality Not Hate."
He said meeting with the mayor — who gave Sharif his support and vowed to keep his family safe — helped him feel safer.
New York, he said, is supposed to be a place were people of all colors, all races and religions can live side-by-side together in peace.
"I've been in this city actually for long time," he said. "[Yet] still I was attacked. I feel like I belong here, I've worked here, I've been here for long, long, long time."
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, said there was no doubt in her mind that the controversy surrounding plans to construct a mosque and community center near Ground Zero inspired the attack.
"There is no doubt that the level of political rhetoric had risen to such a point that some sort of violence felt inevitable to us as a community," she said. "Fear mongering leads to hate crimes. Fear mongering is at the heart of what happened to Ahmed Sharif."
Bloomberg, speaking to reporters after meeting with Sharif, said there was no way to know what was going through the alleged attacker's mind.
Michael Enright, a 21-year-old School of Visual Arts student, has been charged with attempted murder and assault as a hate crime for allegedly attacking Sharif after asking whether the cab driver was Muslim.
Bloomberg, who was joined by Sharif, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Council Speaker Christine Quinn by his side, said Sharif's wife told him that they came to America from Bangladesh "to have a better life" for their children.
The mayor gave Sharif's children gift bags that included several T-shirts that read "I Love New York," and "I'm an Official New Yorker." They also received T-shirts from the NYPD and socks from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, as well as "I Love NY" pencils.
The mayor also said he gave candy to Sharif's children — two boys, a girl and an infant, and ate one of their chips.
Bloomberg said Wednesday that the invitation would show Sharif that neither "ethnic or religious bias has a place in our city."