Video: Islamophobia?
updated 2/23/2006 2:18:03 PM ET 2006-02-23T19:18:03

So how do you feel about turning America's biggest ports over to the government of a Middle Eastern country?  Does that idea make you a little uncomfortable?  Then you may be a racist.  At least that's the charge being thrown around today by Arab groups here and abroad and at least implicitly by the White House itself. 

For more of the debate over whether bigotry plays a role in America's reaction to the port deal, Jean Abinader, one of the board of directors at the Arab-American Institute joined Tucker Carlson on ‘Situation’ Wednesday.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, ‘SITUATION’:  So why is bigotry being thrown around here?  Why is it racist to be uncomfortable with the idea of the government of the United Arab Emirates playing a role in managing our ports?

JEAN ABINADER, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, ARAB-AMERICAN INSTITUTE:  Well, the whole way you phrase it is wrong in the first place.  It's not turning it over to the government of the UAE.  It's not being a takeover by the UAE.  This is a business proposition. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

ABINADER:  If the Dubai ports didn't want to be in the business they wouldn't be in the business. 


ABINADER:  And so people are not, as Mike said the administration has spent five years now convincing people that anything that comes out of the Middle East, whether it's oil or people, is a threat to our national security.  They're going to get a taste of their own medicine.  So people looking at it as a business proposition, and treating it as politics, I think, is bigoted. 

CARLSON:  The average person looking at this story from the vantage point of his home sees that a government, not just a company, but the government of the United Arab Emirates will be taking over management of these ports.  Won't be responsible for the security. 

ABINADER:  No, that's incorrect.  Port security is the responsibility of the Coast Guard. 

CARLSON:  Hold on.  That's what I just said.  They won't be taking over security.


CARLSON:  But they do own the company that will be managing the ports.  And you said, “Well, hold on a second.”  The UAE is the country through which a number of the 9/11 terrorists traveled.  They had bank accounts there.  It's one of—as Mike Allen just said—one of the three governments in the world to recognize the Taliban.

ABINADER:  Why don't we look at the business of Dubai Ports?  That's really what this is about.   Look at the 450 countries who are already domiciled in Jubal Alley in Dubai.  And ask those American companies if once in the 30 years that American companies have been there have there are any incidents of attacks or even theft of American companies. 

CARLSON:  OK.  That's an excellent point, and now you're making a rational, adult argument, in contrast to the argument you were just making a second ago, which is people who are uncomfortable with this are bigoted.  That's not an argument.  That's a standard.

ABINADER:  Look at the arguments they're making, though.  Look at the arguments they're making.  They're saying that UAE is related to Islamofascism, the UAE is a rogue state.  These are statements made by members of Congress.  These are made by members of—people on the airwaves.  Those are bigoted statements.

CARLSON:  It's a rogue state.  Look, it is not a Democratic country.  It's an authoritarian country. 

ABINADER:  So what?  Look what happened.  Are you happy with the results in Palestine?

CARLSON:  I'm merely saying, isn't—or asking, isn't it fair for people to have concerns?  The UAE is not the same as Great Britain.  The president yesterday said, “Well, it didn't bother you when Great Britain owned this company.  Why does it bother you when the UAE owns this company?”

ABINADER:  The bottom line is that this is a business proposition.  It's not looked at as a business proposition. 

I agree with Mike Allen that maybe the White House should have spent a little more time in consultation with Congress.  And I hope, in fact, that they do so.  OK, let's take 30 or 60 days and look at it.  But the debate has to be framed about is this a good, viable business proposition? 

CARLSON:  I agree with that.

ABINADER:  Does it meet the needs of the consumer, and does it meet the needs that we have as people who want the ports to work effectively?

CARLSON:  And you short-circuit that debate when you start throwing around terms like bigotry and racism.  You don't allow for a debate.  You name call.

ABINADER:  But if you look at the remarks people have made, they have been bigoted comments.  They're saying this is a bad business deal.  They're not saying that security is going to be threatened.  They're saying that these people are unreliable in terms of running the ports.  That's a bigoted statement.

CARLSON:  For one thing, polling done by the Zogby company, which I think does pretty accurate polling in the Middle East, shows that the overwhelming majority of the people in the UAE hate us.  OK?  So that's a statement of fact. 

Second, the idea that this is an example of Islamophobia makes me wonder, well, why wouldn't Americans have every reason to be Islamophobic when they look to the Middle East and they see people in the name of Islam burning effigies of Uncle Sam and...

ABINADER:  Well, here you are.  You're going—you're doing the bigoted routine right now.  By saying, OK, let's take some isolated behaviors of people, or let's take polling data and say that somehow that's going to affect the management of the ports. 

CARLSON:  No, no, no.  No, no.

ABINADER:  You're mixing apples and oranges. 

CARLSON:  I'm not mixing. 

ABINADER:  The basic issue here is are our ports going to be protected?  Are these ports going to be well managed?  That's the only things that should be on the table.

CARLSON:  What I object to is your not giving credit to the average person for having—you're accusing the average American of being a bigot.  Right?  Anyone who's opposed to this is a bigot.

ABINADER:  We're not talking about average Americans at all, because we're not talking about average Americans.  What we're talking about are people in Congress and people in the media who are making these irresponsible comments.

If there was a debate on this then I think it would be a great idea, but there isn't. 

CARLSON:  Mr. Abinader, I wish you spent a little more time—I wish you spent a little more outrage on the people who are murdering innocents over these ludicrous cartoons. 

ABINADER:  Specious argument.  Specious argument.  It has nothing to do with this.

CARLSON:  Call it a specious argument if you want to.

ABINADER:  And I think you understand very well that we have always come out against any kind of violence against any civilians in the world. 

Watch 'The Situation with Tucker Carlson' each weeknight at 11 p.m. ET

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