The background: Last month, Coffee County, Tennessee commissioner Barry West posted a photo on Facebook of a man squinting down the barrel of a gun, with a caption reading, “How to wink at a Muslim.” The Muslim community in Tennessee and across the nation was outraged, and many were frightened by the implications of the photo and caption, especially coming from an elected official. The photo below is a capture of the Facebook page by the Mail Online. There is no way to see this as anything but threatening.
The American Muslim Advisory Council decided to host a meeting to allow local Muslims to share with their neighbors about who the Muslim community is, and to talk about American Muslims and public discourse, and they invited a representative of the DOJ and the FBI to attend and talk about what’s considered free speech and what’s illegal hate speech, and where the line is where speech can be prosecuted. The situation in Tennessee was that there was a lot of tension between the Muslim community and their neighbors. There had been a series of anti-Muslim incidents, and an elected official had posted something that the Muslim community believed to have crossed the line between protected speech and hate speech. This is exactly the sort of situation that the DOJ’s community outreach program is designed to address. Bill Killian, U.S., Attorney of the Eastern District of Tennessee was to speak about the Constitution, the first and fourteenth amendments, and to clarify what constitutes hate speech, and what are the existing legal consequences.
Middle Tennessee got socked by outside instigators who “hijacked” a public meeting last week, turning what was meant to be a step toward harmony into something more akin to a KKK rally, according to a member of the Muslim panel that sponsored the event.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and representatives of the American Muslim Advisory Council faced a barrage of hostile comments Tuesday in Manchester, Tenn. Dorothy Zwayyed, East Tennessee coordinator for AMAC, said they were mostly out-of-towners who derailed an assembly of fellowship and learning.
Coffee County lies in mostly white Middle Tennessee where local communities have seen a significant influx of immigrants in recent years. The foreign-born population around Nashville jumped 83.1 percent, from 58,539 to 107,184. That growth represents the fourth-largest percentage increase in the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the Washington-based Brookings Institution.