Tom Humphrey writes in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that Stewart County Republican Party Chairman Kyle Mallory has “condemned” Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam for, among other things, “hiring a Muslim.” That Muslim is former White House fellow, attorney Samar Ali, who now serves as director of international marketing with the Department of Economic and Community Development.
The hiring of Ali, who is described as “an expert in Shariah Compliant Finance, which is one of the many ways Islamic terrorism is funded” and as “a one-time Obama appointee” from a family with “a long history of supporting the Democratic Party.” ECD officials say Ali, who served in a White House fellowship program, has nothing to do with Shariah law or finance.
A comprehensive piece by Abby Rapoport for The American Prospect situates the Samar Ali controversy as well as accusations that Gov. Haslam is somehow “just not concerned enough about the threat of Sharia law” in the wider context of “anti-Islamic sentiment” across the state, including opposition to the Murfreesboro Islamic Center and law enforcement training that portrayed Islam and Islamic law as inherently violent. Rapoport notes that support for Haslam’s condemnation comes from Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy–which has also served as the source for Rep. Michele Bachmann’s accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government. Rapoport quotes a Center for Security Policy statement on Ali:
Given Ms. Ali's close associations with Shariah Finance entities and specialization in Shariah Finance, it is reasonable to expect that the financial jihadists will soon be targeting the Volunteer state for infiltration and influence operations.
Eric Lach at TPM Muckraker reports that several Tea Party and conservative Republican organizations in Tennessee have passed resolutions against Haslam, two of which reference Ali’s hiring. The July 10, 2012 resolution out of Williamson County reads:
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has elevated and/or afford [sic] preferential political status to Sharia adherents in Tennessee, thereby aiding and abetting the advancement of an ideology and doctrine which is wholly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States and the Tennessee Constitution.
Lach quotes an email to TPM from Kevin Kookogey, chairman of the Williamson County Republicans, who writes:
To date, the Haslam Administration has displayed an unfortunate ignorance to the threat of Shariah. … They seem willing to accept the claims and defense of the Muslim Brotherhood at face value, refusing to even consider that, perhaps, those bent on destroying Western Civilization might just be infiltrating our institutions. … It is not like this has never happened before. The Muslim Brotherhood is following the blueprint of the Communists, who infiltrated the highest levels of government and society in the 1950’s. Shariah, however, is an even greater threat, because it has cloaked itself under the auspices of a religion, thus confusing the uninformed.
An op-ed by Judy Guthrie in the Memphis Commercial Appeal criticizes Gov. Haslam for hiring Ali, whose “credentials reach deeply into Islamic Shariah law.” She writes:
For what purpose are Shariah finance laws needed within Tennessee or American government? Shariah is exclusionary, radical and contrary to American law and is ethnically driven. Let Muslims comply with our laws and our Constitution, not the other way around. They are in America.
Otis Sanford, who holds the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Journalism at the University of Memphis and serves as a columnist for the Commercial Appeal, calls accusations against Ali “bigotry” and “paranoia.”