"I've been told that some (Muslim women) fear to leave, some don't want to go shopping for their families, some don't want to go about their ordinary daily routines because, by wearing cover, they're afraid they'll be intimidated," Bush said. "That should not and will not stand in America."
Bush's remarks came amid a spate of violence targeted at Muslims in the United States--fueled in part by suspicions that a Muslim fundamentalist group orchestrated the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 that crippled New York City and Washington.
In the days following the attacks, Muslims in California discovered what appeared to be pig's blood thrown on the door of a mosque. Shots were fired at an Islamic center in Irving, Texas. Near Chicago, police thwarted some 300 non-Muslims who tried to protest at a mosque. Fear of attacks led to the cancellation of classes at Muslim schools in Detroit and Los Angeles. Some mosques considered canceling Friday prayers.
Such violent behavior is not representative of America, Bush said.
"Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America," he said. "They represent the worst of humankind. And they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior."
Reading a translation of a verse from the Koran, Bush said "In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil, for that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule."
Terrorism "is not the true faith of Islam," he said. "That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace -- they represent evil and war."
"The Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads, and they need to be treated with respect," he said. "Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear covering must not be intimidated in America. That's not the America I know; that's not the America I value."
Bush spoke the same day Muslim and Catholic leaders issued a joint statement appealing to law enforcement agencies and the public "to assist those who may be targets of hate crimes," and denouncing Tuesday's terrorist attacks as "diametrically opposed to true religion."
"We believe that the one God calls us to be peoples of peace," read the statement, whose signatories included the American Muslim Council and the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "Nothing in our Holy Scriptures, nothing in our understanding of God's revelation, nothing that is Christian or Islamic justifies terrorist acts and disruptions of millions of lives which we have witnessed this week."
The statement--also signed by the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim American Society, and the Islamic Circle of North America--cautioned against "sinking to the mentality and immorality of the perpetrators of Tuesday's crimes."