In many ways, the cover story pictured at right (from July) is my favorite of the year.
To opponents of Shariah law, it looked like the fox had worked its way into Gov. Bill Haslam’s henhouse. On the one hand Samar Ali was a talented local product made good — Vanderbilt undergrad and law school education, White House fellowship and time spent in prestigious law firms learning the fine points of international business. On the other hand, Samir Ali was exactly the threat tea party elements in Tennessee could see — a Muslim familiar with “Shariah-compliant finance” straight from the Obama administration who was here to set Tennessee on a course toward an Islamic state.
So when Ali took a job in the governor’s Economic and Community Development office, it was a sign that things had gone too far. County Republican parties took out newspaper ads decrying her presence in state government. They demanded she be removed and that Haslam roll back a creeping tide of Islam and stop the implementation of Shariah law.
Once we started looking into the situation, however, it became obvious that this was fearmongering, pure and simple. Not only was Ali not implementing Islam — an ECD spokesman said that “nothing that she does here has anything to do with Western finance, much less Shariah finance” — her job was in exports, helping Tennessee companies boost trade.
Terrorist in disguise? No. Actually, she’s trying to create jobs for Tennesseans. That’s what you learn when you ask questions, do a little reporting and try to explain things. That pictogram on the cover is a representation of the number of Muslims living in the state. One look and you realize — fears of Shariah law don’t have a basis in reality.
I hope what we did here at The City Paper in 2012 hit those notes. What follows in links below are what we think were some of the biggest stories of the year. Thank you for reading us, and we look forward to bringing you more about Nashville in 2013.
—Steve Cavendish, Editor
Look for these Year in Review stories over the coming days: