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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
US trials of Muslims delayed
Sikh protestors
A Sikh was shot dead in Arizona on Saturday
Judges in the US have postponed several trials of Muslims amid fears that they are unlikely to receive a fair hearing in a climate of rising racial tension.

President George W Bush has called for an end to the racist violence that followed last week's attacks in the US, in which the prime suspect was identified as the Islamic militant Osama Bin Laden.

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

Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens don't represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind

President Bush

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.

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

Another murder in Texas is thought to have been motivated 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.

Trials delayed

Judges are concerned that jurors at trials of Muslims may hold views of the defendants strongly influenced by recent events.

A Palestinian-American participates in a candlelit vigil in New York
Arab-Americans are horrified by the suicide attacks

In California, the case against an Egyptian immigrant accused of killing a child has been put on hold.

The judge in Santa Ana said he was dismissing 163 prospective jurors because it appeared John Ghobrial would not get a fair hearing.

He delayed the trial until 28 September to allow time for emotions to cool down.

In Atlanta, Georgia, a judge cited the same reasons for delaying the murder trial of a Muslim cleric.

Jamil Abdullah al-Amin is accused of killing a police officer and could get the death penalty if found guilty. The judge postponed the trial until January.

Bush quotes Koran

A BBC correspondent, Nick Bryant, says there is clearly a concern that if 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.

They come to our store, tell us we are terrorists and ask us to go back to our country

Latwinder Singh

"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 Latwinder 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."

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.

More than 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.

The BBC's David Willis
"The fear is the backlash against Muslims will grow if America does go to war"
The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"Another sign of how vulnerable Islam is to stereotyping"
Sarah Eltantawi, LA's Muslim Public Affairs Council
describes the nature of the attacks on the Muslim community in the US
See also:

17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban to decide Bin Laden fate
18 Sep 01 | Americas
US terror threat remains
18 Sep 01 | Americas
Hopes fade for missing
17 Sep 01 | Americas
A community under siege
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