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Bush denounces Muslim harassment

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Those directing their anger against Muslims in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon should be "ashamed," President Bush said Monday.

"Muslim Americans make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country," Bush said. "They need to be treated with respect."

Touring a Washington mosque, Bush said, "the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam."

He also quoted the Muslim holy book, the Quran: "In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil."

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The president's comments underscored a Muslim group's reports Monday of scores of attacks against American Muslims, South Asians and Arabs since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington last week.

At a press conference, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it had received reports of harassment of Muslim women and obscenities shouted on the street; bombings, car rammings and arson attempts at mosques; and beatings, death threats and possibly even killings.

"We cannot count the amount of calls that we are getting of the general atmosphere of hatred," said CAIR's Joshua Salaam.

"Many people are calling in, giving us the incidents of them driving down the street and people trying to run them off the road, people shouting at them, obscenities, foul language," Salaam said. "We're getting calls of people getting fired from their jobs without any reason. And this is what we're concerned about is now we're going to have a future of discrimination that is more subtle."

FBI Director Robert Mueller said Monday that "vigilante attacks and threats against Arab-Americans will not be tolerated."

The FBI and Justice Department, he said, are committed to investigating and prosecuting violations of federal hate crime laws.

'We are Americans, too'

The agency has launched 40 hate-crime investigations against individuals and institutions after reported attacks against Arab-American citizens and institutions, Mueller said. The FBI is reaching out to leaders of the Arab-American community in each FBI field office across the country, he said.

CAIR, at its press conference, passed along this message: "We denounce the terrorist attacks. They don't reflect the behavior and thoughts of the majority of Muslims. And ... we are Americans, too."

Nahid Awad, the group's executive director, said, "There is no place in Islam for acts of terrorism and violence against innocent people."

Awad called Muslim firefighters in New York, Muslim volunteers donating blood and performing relief work, and the Muslim doctors treating victims "the true face of the community."

Awad said the majority of Muslim scholars throughout the world condemn the attack.

"We cannot allow the acts of the few to determine and take over the debate of important issues. Unfortunately, the tragic and harsh reality that's coming out of this horrible tragedy is that many Americans do not know about the beautiful religion of Islam," he said.

Two killings investigated

Police in Dallas, Texas, are investigating whether the killing of a Pakistani grocer was racially motivated.

In Mesa, Arizona, an Indian immigrant who practiced the Sikh faith and had a beard and wore a turban was gunned down Saturday at the gas station he ran.

Members of CAIR say Sikhs are bearing the brunt of hostility because of their appearance, which is not unlike that of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

"We had another report of a Sikh man being pulled off a train, I think between here and New York, just because of his looks," said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR national communications director.

"And we saw the other case where a Copt, an Egyptian Copt, a Christian, was probably killed because he looked like he could be a Muslim. So bigots are never brain surgeons. I mean, when they do these things it's based on ignorance. So their targets always aren't the right targets in their own minds."

Awad said: "We should not be judged on our looks, our last names, the way we dress, the way we talk."

Many Americans have rallied to Muslims' support. Awad said there have been statements of support and sympathy for the community from Christians and Jews.

Muslim-Americans must start a long-term project to educate Americans about Islam, one CAIR representative said at the press conference.

"We all came on different ships," Awad said during the news conference. "But we are all in the same boat."

• Council on American-Islamic Relations

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