A group of Arab-American and Muslim leaders said Monday they want John McCain's campaign to apologize for cutting ties with an Arab-American businessman serving on the GOP presidential candidate's Michigan finance committee.
Ali Jawad, founder of the Lebanese American Heritage Club, was listed with five other finance committee members on an invitation to a $2,300-per-person fundraising dinner McCain plans to attend Tuesday in Oakland County.
Jawad's supporters said during a news conference that he was asked to resign from the committee after Michigan blogger Debbie Schlussel wrote that he had ties to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. They said her comments were based on rumor and innuendo.
"We do not want a president who makes a decision ... based on false information," said Osama Siblani, president of the Arab American Political Action Committee and publisher of the Arab American News. "This is an insult to every Arab-American and Muslim-American in the country."
Messages seeking comment were left Monday afternoon with the McCain campaign.
Besides an apology, Siblani said Jawad's supporters also want McCain to ask the businessman to rejoin the finance committee.
Jawad said it would be premature to say whether he would accept such a request.
He told The Associated Press Monday evening that the accusations were false, including any links to Hezbollah. On one particular trip to Lebanon, he said, he met with the U.S. ambassador, who arranged all the appointments with the president and members of parliament.
"This is our country by choice," he said. "We're patriotic Americans, as much as anyone else." . . .
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his group has encouraged Jawad to seek legal action against Schlussel but none so far has been taken. Walid said such allegations turn the Arab and Muslim community into victims of "neo-McCarthyism."
Siblani said McCain is "starting off on the wrong foot" with Arab- and Muslim-Americans with this decision, and if the candidate stands by it he could lose many of its voters.
"This shows you (McCain's campaign) doesn't care about our community," he said. "This group is essential to the war on terror. We need to work with the government hand in hand." (MORE)