Newsletter #36 – The AMAC spreads its influence

First the TN American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) entered into a Governor-approved partnership with the TN Department of Homeland Security.

Shortly thereafter, four AMAC members formed a second organization to lobby the General Assembly– the American Center for Outreach (ACO).  Current AMAC members serve as the governing board: Danish Siddiqui,  ACO Chairman, Kasar Abdulla, ACO Director, Soyab Malani, ACO Treasurer, and Sehrish Siddiqui, ACO Secretary.

But remember, the AMAC claims that the only thing they do is provide “cultural training”. Do they disclose that AMAC members also comment on pending legislation or that AMAC members promote political activities around the state?

AMAC’s training at the TN Dept. of Children’s Services (DCS)

Why would the TN DCS need Middle Eastern Culture training?

Dana Clegg, Regional Training Coordinator and Absconder Program Representative, contacted the AMAC to request this training. (The Absconder Program deals mostly with runaway minors).  Documents from an open records request state that, “The Davidson region’s Child Protective Service teams had requested this training due to the population that they work with in investigating allegations of abuse and neglect.”

How did the training coordinator find out about the AMAC?

The Training Coordinator, Dana Clegg, contacted the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department which then recommended the AMAC to provide the training.

Recall, that the AMAC’s February 28th letter (see Newsletter #34) stated that they had started as a  “collaboration between the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and Muslim leaders across the state” and the “AMAC has now broadened its reach to other government agencies…”

May 22, 2012 DCS sponsored the AMAC training

Thirty-three (33) DCS staff and three (3) staff from the Davidson County Juvenile Court attended a two – hour panel discussion presented by the AMAC chair Ms. Zulfat Suara and AMAC members Ms. Drost Kokoye and Mohamed Shukri Hassan.  As also stated in the open records response, because cultural training is required for the DCS staff biennially, the training coordinator requested that the panel only provide information about “… types of foods, religious holidays, practices, customs, and special ages for boys and girls.”

But then the AMAC provided a list of the Islamic Centers in the Nashville area “to be used by DCS workers as a resource.”

Self-described  “cultural” training by the AMAC raises several relevant questions:

1)    Muslim authorities say over and over again that Islam is a complete way of life. (see attached document from the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro).  Given that instructions for living a Shariah-adherent life cover everything from cradle to grave and everything in-between, can the religion of Islam be practiced as a “complete way of life” if the culture within which it is practiced doesn’t also conform to the religious doctrine?

In other words, if Islam is a complete way of life, is it also the blueprint for the “culture” presented by the Muslim representatives of the AMAC?

2)    For purposes of their training, does the AMAC explain where their “culture” stops and their religion begins?  Stated another way, do they disclose the source from which the cultural practices derive?

3)    Should accommodations in public life be required for subjectively determined “cultural practices” that have neither a doctrinal nor religious basis?

Culture?  Religion?  Ideology?  Mixed message?