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Bush visits mosque, urges tolerance

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published September 17, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) President Bush visited a mosque and bought coffee for a cafeteria full of aides yesterday as he appealed to Americans to get back to everyday business and not turn against their Muslim neighbors.

In his socks, as is Muslim practice, Bush padded through the ornate mosque on Washington"s Embassy Row and heard stories from his hosts about Muslim-American women afraid to leave their homes for fear of prejudiced backlash after last week"s terrorist strikes.

"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," Bush said, his back to the brilliantly tiled prayer alcove facing Mecca.

He quoted from the Quran and fervently defended the Islam faith: "Islam is peace. These terrorists don"t represent peace, they represent evil and war."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has, since last Tuesday"s suicide bombings, opened 40 hate crime investigations into reported attacks on Arab-Americans, including two killings possibly motivated by anti-Arab sentiment, said FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Bush"s hourlong visit to the gated Islamic Center of Washington was but one stop on a crowded day when the president juggled war planning with an attempt to guide stricken Americans back into their daily routines.

The White House, meanwhile, announced an extraordinary lineup of foreign leaders coming to Washington to meet with Bush as he builds an international coalition for war.

French President Jacques Chirac will be at the White House today, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri tomorrow, British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday, and Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar on Oct. 4.

Huddling with his top domestic policy and economic advisers, Bush ordered up "a comprehensive package" to aid the airlines, said spokeswoman Claire Buchan. She declined to comment on the industry"s request for a $20 billion federal bailout. Airlines are laying off thousands of workers, having lost $1 billion already in the wake of last week"s tragedy.

Bush began his day at a White House cafeteria, where he announced the coffee was his treat and then ordered a cup for himself with milk and sugar-free sweetener. "We"re setting a good example. We"re showing we will not be intimidated," he told the government workers.

Across the Potomac River, Pentagon officials briefed Bush on call-up orders for 35,000 reservists. At least four dozen of them men and women being mobilized against an enemy yet uncertain lined the Eisenhower corridor and applauded their commander in chief.

While Vice President Dick Cheney made an impromptu walk outside to the charred ruins of the Pentagon"s southwest face, Bush headed downstairs to the Pentagon cafeteria looking as if he wanted to shake every hand he could reach. A woman began softly singing "God Bless America" and soon, everyone in the crowd, including the president, joined their voices to hers.

At the end of one corridor, a pregnant woman held a photo of her husband, one of the 188 people killed on the Pentagon"s west side. Bush paused to speak with her, rubbed her back a little and gave her a peck on the cheek.

She and two other family members wept as he walked away.