The stabbing of a Muslim cab driver by a 21-year-old man who attacked him once he learned of his Islamic faith has made headlines across the country, with the city of New York already charging the young man with committing a hate crime.
The cab driver, Ahmed Sharif, told the New York Post that he believed tension surrounding the proposed Park 51 Islamic community center being built near the site of Ground Zero “may have played a role in the horrifying attack.” “Right now, the public sentiment is very serious. All drivers should be more careful,” Sharif said.
However, instead of simply condemning the attack and defending the rights of Muslim Americans to live freely and safely, Gov. David Paterson (D) took the opportunity to respond to the attack by plugging his plans to try to convince the developers of Park 51 to choose a different location. He said in a statement that “this kind of violence is one of the reasons” he called for a “respectful and unifying conversation about the Park 51 project”:
“In the wake of the alleged hate crime against a New York City taxi driver, I must take this opportunity to remind New Yorkers that we cannot and will not allow bias and ignorance to infect our communities and deny our hard working, innocent residents the respect they deserve.
“The potential for this kind of violence is one of the reasons why I have called publicly for a respectful and unifying conversation about the Park51 project. I continue to offer my assistance for an open dialogue that I believe will help to bring New Yorkers together.
It is difficult to imagine how it would be “respectful and unifying” to respond to a hate crime by imploring those targeted to consider giving in to the hate and relocating the Islamic center. To do so would be the equivalent of asking the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to consider giving into white racism by ending its drive to register black voters following the incineration of the 16th Street Baptist Church by a white extremist, or requesting that the Freedom Riders end their quest for desegregation following the firebombing of one their buses in Anniston, Alabama.