Bush Says Most Arabs, Muslims Are Patriots, Cautions against a Backlash

Article excerpt

Byline: Carter Dougherty

President Bush yesterday urged Americans not to vent their outrage at Arabs and Muslims over the terrorist attacks that likely killed thousands of people in New York and Washington on Tuesday.

During a televised call with New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Gov. George E. Pataki, both Republicans, Mr. Bush said forcefully that patriotic Americans come from all backgrounds.

"Our nation must be mindful that there are thousands of Arab Americans that live in New York City who love the flag just as much" as other Americans, Mr. Bush said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a similar statement after a meeting with the head of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice, Ralph Boyd, and prominent Arab and Muslim groups.

Federal authorities are pursuing more than a dozen hijackers of Middle Eastern heritage in Tuesday's attacks and have linked them to Saudi-born mastermind Osama bin Laden's network of Islamic terrorists who profess a militant brand of Islam that most Muslims reject.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft made the statements as hundreds of news reports of threats and attempted violence against Arabs and Muslims poured in from throughout the country.

In the Washington area, residents were also the subject of sporadic threats, but Jean Abinader, executive director of the District-based Arab-American Institute, said close links between community groups and police were paying off.

They have strong relationships with the local authorities because of the multicultural city, he said. "They need not hesitate to call the police if something happens."

Mr. Abinader praised the reactions of Bush administration officials.

However, he said he was "very worried" by radio call-in shows that have, in the name of free speech, allowed callers to "spew hate" against Arabs and Muslims. …