The furor over handing control of some operations at six U.S. ports to an Arab company has more to do with politics than security, U.S. Arab and Muslim leaders charged Wednesday.
"There's an anti-Arab sentiment that is being exploited by members of Congress who see it as an election-year win," said James Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute. "You can stoke up a whole lot of fear by saying 'The Arabs are coming.'"
Zogby was scheduled to be in the United Arab Emirates today on business unrelated to the Dubai Ports World deal. He said the rhetoric "has been shameful, irresponsible, uninformed and dangerous" and preys on post-9/11 fears.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., one of a handful of members of Congress of Lebanese Christian descent, said, "There's no question that if this had been a German company, it would have been unlikely they would have brought up the fact that the 9/11 hijackers trained and were radicalized in Germany."
Issa said it was up to Congress to decide whether any foreign company should be allowed to operate U.S. ports or whether foreign ownership of port operations should be limited, as it is for TV and radio.
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., also of Lebanese descent, questioned the deal. "I don't think we need to surrender the security of America by outsourcing it to foreign countries."
Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the deal represented "normal business practice" in a global economy. "Only when Arabs became involved did we see concerns being raised," he said. =
"That sends a message ... to the Arab and Muslim world of a double standard, that no Arabs or Muslims need apply."