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Thursday, September 27, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bush calls for religious tolerance

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush yesterday asked Americans not to direct their anger over the terrorist attacks toward Muslims.

Bush met with Muslim clerics and Arab-American leaders about how his administration is dealing with the hateful treatment they have experienced since Islamic extremists orchestrated attacks Sept. 11 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Earlier, Bush held a similar meeting with U.S. Sikhs, also targeted by some because of the turbans they wear.

"I have told the nation more than once that ours is a war against evil, against extremists. The teachings of Islam are the teachings of peace and good," Bush said.

In his session with the Sikhs, Bush noted the death of Balbir Singh Sodhi, an Indian store owner killed in Arizona shortly after the attacks. Police say the killer mistook him for a Muslim because of the turban he wore in keeping with his Sikh faith. Bush said his administration would seek justice in Sodhi's case and wanted to ensure that everyone is treated with respect, "particularly during this time."

"These citizens bring their hearts with them," Bush said. "I can assure them that our government will do everything we can ... to treat every human life as dear, and respect the values that made our country so different and so unique."

Bush yesterday also visited the Central Intelligence Agency to encourage employees working on the terrorism cases.

He blunted a suggestion from Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., vice chairman and senior Republican of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that CIA Director George Tenet should resign. Bush expressed "a lot of confidence" in Tenet and said Congress should ensure the CIA has the tools necessary to combat terrorists.

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