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Man charged over 'racist' attack

A college student who did volunteer work in Afghanistan was charged on Wednesday with slashing a Bangladeshi taxi driver's neck and face after the driver said he was Muslim.

A criminal complaint alleges Michael Enright uttered an Arabic greeting and told the driver, "Consider this a checkpoint," before the brutal attack occurred on Tuesday night inside the yellow cab on Manhattan's East Side. Police said Enright was drunk at the time.

A judge ordered Enright, 21, held without bail on charges of attempted murder and assault as hate crimes and possession of a weapon. The handcuffed defendant, wearing a polo shirt and cargo shorts, did not enter a plea during the brief court appearance.

Besides a serious neck wound, cabbie Ahmed H Sharif suffered cuts to his forearms, his face and one hand while trying to fend off Enright, prosecutor James Zeleta said while arguing against bail.

Defence attorney Jason Martin told the judge his client was an honours student at the School of Visual Arts who lives with his parents in suburban Brewster, New York.

To deny bail, given his background, "I don't think is warranted," Mr Martin argued. The lawyer declined to comment outside court.

Enright volunteered for Intersections International, a group that promotes interfaith dialogue and has supported plans for an Islamic centre and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.

A group representative, the Rev Robert Chase, called the situation "tragic."

"We've been working very hard to build bridges between folks from different religions and cultures," Rev Chase said. "This is really shocking and sad for us."

Mr Sharif, a 43-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant who's driven a cab for 15 years, was quoted in a news release from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance as saying the attack left him shaken.

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