This week's stories | Home Page
Issue Date:  March 3, 2006

Nation: Muslim and Arab groups say uproar over ports amounts to profiling

Arab-and Muslim-American leaders say the uproar over a White House deal that would turn over operations of several major U.S. ports to an Arab-owned company could leave many in the Islamic world thinking Americans hate them.

“This is sending a dangerous message not only to Arab and Muslim citizens of this country about how we in America see Arabs and Muslims, but also to the Muslim world, where we’re trying to win hearts and minds,” said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group. “It’s almost as if it’s a race to see who can be more anti-Arab.”

Citing security concerns, politicians and commentators from both sides of the aisle have fiercely criticized a $6.8 billion acquisition by Dubai Ports World, owned by one of the United Arab Emirates, of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. The British company had been managing shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chair of the House Homeland Security Committee -- a legislator the Council on American-Islamic Relations has in the past accused of Islamophobia -- said he would help draft emergency legislation to kill the deal. The deal was approved by the White House, and President Bush said he would veto any bill against it.

Mary Rose Oakar, president of the Washington-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said her group “is strongly opposed to the rhetoric and bias surrounding the company solely because it is Arab-owned. Those who purport that ports can be securely run by a British company but not an Arab one are engaging in racial profiling on the corporate level.”

Some industry analysts have said turning the ports over to Dubai Ports World would not affect security, which would still be done by American workers.

Hazami Barmada, an Arab-American senior at Rhodes College in Tennessee where she is president of the Muslim Students Association, says the episode demonstrates an increasing tendency in America to automatically link everything that is Arab or Muslim with terrorism.

“There’s always this theme of the Arab threat. The American media [have] allowed a few terrorists to hijack the Arab image,” Barmadi, 22, said. “Arab-bashing is fashionable.”

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter, March 3, 2006

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: