21-year-old Michael Enright allegedly asked the cab driver, Ahmed H Sharif of Queens, "are you Muslim," before stabbing him.
When the cabbie responded that he was a Muslim, Enright stabbed him several times, a police spokesperson said, adding that the man has now been charged with attempted second-degree murder as a hate crime and is awaiting arraignment.
Enright is a student of the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Police said that the he recently returned to the country from Afghanistan, where he was making a film on the US Marines.
Referring to the row over the proposed Islamic Center near the World Trade Center, the spokesperson told US Today, "Right now the public sentiment is very serious."
All taxi drivers have been advised to be more careful.
Sharif, who has sustained stab wounds on his arms, face and throat, said, "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 feel this hopeless and insecure before."
Enright was reportedly drunk when he launched the attack. Some of his friends have also revealed that he has an alcohol problem and that he was flakey at times.