Terrorism came to Maine last week, and Muslim residents of Westbrook were its victims.

Several of them found notes on their apartment doors and cars, threatening their lives because of their religion. That’s terrorism, which is the practice of using violence or intimidation for political ends. It’s also terrorizing, which, under Maine law, is to threaten to commit “a crime of violence dangerous to human life.”

If the notes were intended to frighten the Muslim families, who are also recent immigrants to America, and make them question whether they could trust their neighbors, the terrorists succeeded.

Fortunately, Westbrook police Chief Janine Roberts stood with the victims, and she may have been able to undo some of the damage that had been caused. That’s leadership.

Roberts met with members of the Muslim community Thursday and assured them that the authorities would investigate the incident and seek to prosecute the perpetrator. She also pledged that law enforcement would take the threats seriously and take the necessary steps needed to protect the families.

“Some members of our community have been truly traumatized by this experience,” Roberts said Thursday. “For the people out there who thought this wasn’t much of anything, have some empathy and try to put yourselves in their shoes.”

After the meeting, Westbrook resident and Iraqi refugee Sahib Altameemi seemed relieved by the response. He said, “People in America are good. The police are good.”

Roberts’ stand is inspiring, especially when compared with the lack of leadership shown by Gov. Paul LePage on a similar issue last week.

When LePage heard that an Iranian refugee and former Freeport resident had died in 2015 fighting for the so-called Islamic State, he took advantage of the situation to beat two of his favorite drums: the alleged public safety danger posed by immigrants and welfare fraud.

The governor ordered his Department of Health and Human Services to investigate how many legal immigrants are receiving aid through federal programs and promised to take action against them, even though he has no authority to do so. Nevertheless, he has created suspicion throughout Maine that people should be wary of the new Americans in their neighborhoods, promoting the unfounded notion that they could be disloyal to the country as well as welfare cheats.

We obviously don’t condone welfare fraud, and we believe the state should take every reasonable step to maintain the integrity of the programs it administers, but the governor’s thoughtless reaction to incendiary news last week is damaging the very state he is supposed to serve. LePage’s ranting legitimizes the emotions behind the threatening notes.

As Roberts said Thursday, “members of our community” have been victimized by someone who uses terror as a weapon. Instead of supporting the victims, LePage gave aid and comfort to the person who threatened to do them harm.

It’s easy to sow fear and suspicion, but it takes a real leader to bring people together. It’s time for LePage to step up and be a leader.

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