In early 2011, state lawmakers in the Tennessee General Assembly attempted to outlaw Islam through the use of legislation. The bill threatened to jail Muslims that wanted to pray and attend a mosque. It was the most severe piece of legislation in the country. However, the Tennessee Muslim community responded and fought back. Through hard work, focus and persistence, we made a difference.
The American Center for Outreach (ACO) was established in late 2011. It was established to bring the Muslim voice to the political stage with the objective of changing the local political debate. As a political advocacy organization it is our aim to continue to be a visible force throughout Tennessee.
The positive outcome of the 2011 situation was the historic community mobilization that debunked stereotypes about the lack of participation of minority groups in the civic process, especially Muslims. Never before had a faith community, so diverse, been united for such a powerful cause. Those efforts attracted Tennesseans from all walks of life that came together to ensure that religious freedom for all Tennesseans were preserved.
Since 2011, some legislators have again tried targeting Islam and the Muslim community through more sophisticated methods. However, ACO has been monitoring policies, providing analysis, meeting with lawmakers, building community allies, and pushing back on counterproductive legislation.
As Tennessee Muslims, ACO board members played key roles in mobilizing the statewide Muslim community against the anti-shariah efforts. Since then every ACO board member has been motivated to ensure that never happens again to anyone.