President Bush Monday moved to reassure Muslim Americans that he will not tolerate racist attacks in response to last week's terrorism in Washington and New York.
The president said America has declared war on terrorism, not Islam.
President Bush met with leaders of the Muslim American Society in Washington, saying their rights must be protected from anti-Islamic sentiments following Tuesday's attacks. Mr. Bush said it is important that Americans understand that violence against innocent people violates the fundamental tenets of Islam. "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam," the president said. "That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war."
Anti-Islamic violence in the United States has been on the rise since last week's violence. Police in Arizona suspect the shooting death of an Indian immigrant Saturday was racially motivated, as the man arrested for the murder shouted, "I stand for America all the way." A Moroccan gas station attendant was attacked in the state of Illinois. Police arrested a man in Seattle, Washington, who allegedly tried to set fire to a mosque.
President Bush said Muslim Americans are grieving for the victims of last week's violence just like everyone else in the country. He said the anger and emotion following the attacks must not be taken out on Muslim Americans.
"Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America. They represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior," Mr. Bush said. "This is a great country. It's a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth. And it is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel the same way I do. They are outraged. They are sad. They love America just as much as I do."
Attendance at some mosques is down more than 50 percent since the attacks, as some Muslim Americans fear to leave their homes. President Bush said everyone in America must be treated with respect. "Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must not be intimidated in America. That's not the America I know. That's not the America I value," he said.
FBI director Robert Mueller said his bureau is investigating about 40 hate crimes against Arab-Americans since last week's attack. He said the agency will prosecute anyone found responsible. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has set up a telephone hotline, so victims of anti-Arab or Anti-Muslim hate crimes can report them.