Newsletter #34 – Does the Governor even realize what he’s done?

Has anyone noticed that the Governor’s office has been completely silent about the Governor-approved partnership arrangement between the TN American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) and the TN Department of Homeland Security (TNDHS)?

Did the Governor have any idea what he was endorsing when he approved this partnership arrangement?  Did the Governor realize that when he gave the go-ahead to have the AMAC training Tennessee’s law enforcement and safety personnel he also sanctioned a network that included an AMAC supported lobbyist?

Attached is the letter that AMAC’s chair Ms. Zulfat Suara sent to the Shura Board of the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN).  (the Shura Board is typically composed of members in the community who are well thought of and who understand Islamic doctrine and sharia and function to make the decisions that members of the mosque must follow.  At the ICN, the imam reports to the Shura Board.)

The attached letter (AMAC+Announcement) is dated February 28, 2012, just a day following the February law enforcement training, the second one in which the AMAC participated.  As the letter states:

AMAC began as a collaboration between the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and Muslim leaders across the state.

AMAC has now broadened its reach to other government agencies and thus, operates as an independent organization.

This now “independent organization” was birthed by Governor Haslam’s administration and continues to operate with its support.   And yet, in the face of Commissioner Gibbons’ November 7th congratulatory letter to the AMAC and AMAC’s participation at several government trainings, the Governor remains silent about this venture.

AMAC member and Middle TN Regional Coordinator, Rashed Fakhruddin was a member of the ICN Shura Board.  He also served as the President of the ICN Board from 2003-5.

Interconnected to the AMAC, is the American Center for Outreach (ACO), which per their website, began in late 2011.  According to Commissioner Gibbons’ letter, the AMAC was formalized around the same time. The timing makes sense since:

-the photo of the Muslim Rapid Response Team (MRRT) is dated June 5, 2011 (see newsletter #2; the imam from the Islamic Center of Nashville can be seen in the picture)

-the MMRT was organized by Remziya Suleyman who at that time was still the “policy analyst” for the TN Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC)

-the MMRT then  morphed into AMAC

-the governing board of the ACO is composed of 4 sitting AMAC members (another AMAC member was recently added as an ACO Fellow)

-Remziya Suleyman is now the Director of Policy and Administration for the ACO and lobbies the TN General Assembly

To recap:  The TN DHS starts working in secret with a group that lobbied against the anti-terrorism bill and the group working with DHS Regional Advisor James Cotter, evolves into the AMAC which, with the Governor’s approval, enters into a partnership arrangement with the TN DHS to help train law enforcement and safety personnel, and at or about the same time, four of the sitting AMAC members form another organization, the ACO, which employs a Director who lobbies the TN General Assembly.

At the same time, AMAC members comment to the media on pending legislation. 

Almost seems like some version of insider trading.

The implications of the interconnectedness of these individuals and organizations, their relationships with the Governor, his administration, Tennessee government departments, the Legislature, and with each other, needs further analysis.

This analysis has particular relevance to Governor Haslam’s plan to pass school voucher legislation in the 2013 legislative session.  These issues will be discussed in detail in future newsletters.

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