11 September 2001>News Stories>Bush condemns 'revenge attacks'

Bush condemns 'revenge attacks'
BBCNews . 18 September

LONDON, Sept. 18

Sikhs are among ethnic groups targeted

President Bush has called for an end to racist violence in the United States in the wake of Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Speaking at Washington's Islamic Centre, Mr Bush condemned what have been described as revenge attacks on Muslims and other members of ethnic minorities saying that acts against the innocent violated Islamic teaching.

Earlier, India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee appealed to Mr Bush to protect Indian citizens living in the US after a Sikh was shot dead in Arizona on Saturday in what is believed to have been an ethnically motivated killing.

About 40 hate crimes are being investigated by the FBI with director Robert Mueller warning that vigilante attacks, as he called them, would not be tolerated.

Another murder in Texas is thought to have been motivated by by anger at the terrorist attacks.

American Muslims have been alarmed by the rise in reports of physical or verbal abuse directed against members of their community.

Tolerance plea
BBC correspondent Nick Bryant says that there is clearly a concern that if these incidents of religious intolerance go on unchecked it will be harder to win the support of Islamic countries in the military campaign which lies ahead.

Mr Bush, who visited an Islamic centre in Washington where he quoted from the Koran, said that American Muslims should be treated with respect and tolerance.

"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 behaviour," he said.

But Muslims have not been the only victims of the backlash.

A Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was killed on Saturday when a gunman drove into the Arizona service station which he ran and fired three shots.

Mr Sodhi, originally from Punjab, had lived in the US for about 10 years and his family said he had been planning to return to India to be with his wife and a son.

"We don't deserve this kind of treatment," said Mr Sodhi's younger brother Lakhwinder Singh Sodhi.

"Since we wear turban and beard, 99% of Americans think we belong to Bin Laden. They come to our store, tell us we are terrorists and ask us to go back to our country," Latwinder Singh said.

Arab-Americans are horrified by the attacks

There have been several incidents in Texas and Virginia of shots fired at mosques and Arab-owned shops and Muslim associations across the country have received threatening phone calls.

Baseball bat
In the UK, Wiltshire police say an attack on an Asian woman in Swindon on Friday may also have been linked to the terrorist atrocities.

The 19-year-old victim was treated in hospital after being repeatedly hit around the head with a baseball bat.

In Twickenham, a brutal racial attack by three men - where remarks were made about the US attacks - left a 28-year-old Afghan taxi driver paralysed.

And police in Bolton are treating a fire at a mosque as "suspect".

Over 1,000 Americans of Arab, African and Pakistani origin marched through New York on Sunday to show their support for the US and their rejection of terrorism.

"We are here to express our sorrow. We mourn the innocent victims of New York and as American citizens we are outraged by these terrorist acts," said Bassam Amine, a chemist and director of Brooklyn's Muslim school.

Extremist group
Marchers carried banners bearing the slogans: "Terrorism isn't Islam", "Love and peace to New York" and - in response to President Bush's declaration of war on terrorists and countries accused of harbouring them - "Another war is not the answer".

Meanwhile, police have been called to Manchester University after a known extremist group - said to be sympathetic to Osama Bin Laden - tried to hand out leaflets on the campus.

The National Union of Students has decided to ban Al Muhajiroun, who they fear will try to recruit supporters during Freshers' Week.

Some universities have stepped up security as well as taking precautions to protect Muslim students after the increase in racial attacks.