A New York City cab driver was attacked Tuesday night in an apparent anti-Muslim bias attack. According to the NYPD, Michael Enright, 21, of Brewster, N.Y., hailed a cab in Manhattan, asked the driver Ahmed H. Sharif, 43, about his Muslim faith, and the slashed and stabbed him with a knife in the throat, face and arm, The New York Times reports.
In the midst of the controversy surrounding the so-called "Ground Zero" mosque and anxiety over illegal immigration, this is just the latest and most gruesome manifestation of xenophobia and Islamophobia. Over the weekend, an African-American passerby was taunted and jeered by a crowd in Lower Manhattan who were protesting the plan to build an Islamic Community Center, known as Park51, two blocks from Ground Zero. They mistakenly believed the man to be a Muslim counterprotestor, and the interaction was caught on video.
One would hope that such incidents are merely the isolated behavior of a few unstable individuals, but there is ample evidence that hostile views towards Muslims and immigrants are on the rise throughout the country.
Rasmussen Reports posted poll results on Monday showing recent increases in both the percentage of Americans closely following the "mosque" controversy and strongly opposing the community center's construction. According to Rasmussen, "58% who are following the story very closely, up from 22% in mid-July. Now 62% oppose the building of a mosque near where the World Trade Center stood in Lower Manhattan, compared to 54% in the previous survey."
That comes on the heels of last week's report from the Pew Research Center that there has been a "sharp decline," in the percentage of Americans who can correctly identify President Obama's religion. Only 34 percent say Obama is a Christian, down from 48 percent in 2009. Forty-three percent say they do not know what Obama's religion is, while 18 percent incorrectly state he is a Muslim, up from 12 percent last year.
These poll results reflect the climate of fear-mongering about dubious allegations of radical connections to the Park51 project and terrorist threats that could supposedly emanate from there. They also may be related to the antipathy toward immigrants that is fueling recent discussion among prominent Republicans of revoking the birthright citizenship bestowed upon all Americans, even those born to undocumented immigrants, by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.