Some Arab-American and Muslim leaders objected Friday to the proposal by U.S. Representative Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Hills, to deny federal funds to the Carter Center in the wake of former President Jimmy Carter's meeting with a ranking member of Hamas.
Amid concerns by the Bush Administration, Carter met in Syria with Khaled Meshal, the chief strategist for Hamas, which the United States identifies as a terrorist organization. Hamas officials also are the elected leaders of the Palestinian Authority.
"As a former president of the United States, you undoubtedly understand that the United States must speak with one voice to our enemies," Knollenberg said in a April 9 letter to Carter. Knollenberg then offered a bill, the Coordinated American Response to Extreme Radicals (CARTER) Act that would ban federal financing of the center Carter established to further human rights.
"Knollenberg's legislation seeks to hamper the efforts of a center that promotes free elections, which the Bush Administration has said is the key to democracy and cultivating progress in the Middle East," said the Council of American Islamic Relations, in a statement.
While the legislation is given little chance of approval in Congress, Arab-American leaders said it was particularly disappointing given Knollenberg's recent efforts to improve relations in the Middle East by forming a bipartisan Jordan Caucus and encouraging relief for the Iraqi refugees.
"There is absolutely nothing constructive about this initiative that supports the Bush Administration's progress towards peace," said Leigh O'Neill of the Arab American Institute.
"I think we are living our last days of the American political era when even a former president can be sanctioned for his political views," said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. (MORE)