Back in July, when the leaders of several county chapters of the Republican party were suggesting she had connections to terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood, Samar Ali was understandably quiet.
But during a recent trip to east Tennessee, the state Department of Economic and Community Development's international director spoke with the Chattanooga Times Free-Press, and commented on the furor for the first time:
Ali, who grew up in Waverly, Tenn., and was once student president at Vanderbilt University, said such attacks were "hurtful." But she called them "silly" and untrue. The 30-year-old lawyer said she has been pleased by the support of the Haslam administration and others across the state as she tries to expand the international reach of the state's products and services.
She says she is focused on expanding the state's trade offices around the globe and working to boost exports from Tennessee by 10 percent in each of the next five years.
"I really believe that adversity does introduce you to yourself," she said during a recent visit to Chattanooga. "I joined this administration because I really love Tennessee and believe in Gov. Haslam's vision and leadership."
For the record, in a letter sent in August to state GOP chairman Chris Devaney, Deputy Gov. Claude Ramsey sought to assure nervous party members that "there is no effort by the Haslam administration, the state of Tennessee, or any agency or department of the State to promote or advance Shariah law or Shariah compliant finance."
Now, if Tennessee secedes from the United States and forms its own country, then all bets are off.