January 29, 2018
Displayed with permission from The Tennessee Star
The TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) each received grants from the Proteus Fund, itself a recipient of millions of dollars from the George Soros Open Society Foundations. The grants to the two Tennessee organizations were made through the Proteus “Security & Collaborative Rights” (SCR) initiative.
TIRRC received a $40,000 grant:
To support TIRRC’s leadership development and civic engagement work with MASA [Muslim, Arab and South Asian] communities. This will include public education on immigrant and refugee policies at the local, state, and federal level and building MASA immigrant civic engagement through naturalization, voter engagement, and policy advocacy.
AMAC received a $7,000 grant:
Given the recent uptick in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement targeting and detaining Kurdish community members in Tennessee, SRC support will allow AMAC to implement plans to continue to provide a hotline, media outreach, and Know Your Rights seminars for the community.
Shireen Zaman is Proteus SCR’s Program Director. Named by the Obama White House as a “Champion of Change, Zaman is also the former Executive Director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). With offices in Dearborn, Michigan and Washington, D.C., the ISPU works to promote the interests of Muslims in America, a focus Zaman has carried forward to her position at Proteus as reflected in the SCR grants.
During Zaman’s tenure as Executive Director, the ISPU co-hosted a panel called “Reason vs. Rhetoric: Understanding American Muslims” which included a Kurdish refugee activist from Tennessee. Remziya Suleyman, a former lobbyist for TIRRC had helped launch two interlocking organizations; the American Center for Outreach and the American Muslim Advisory Council, in opposition to the 2011 Tennessee anti-terrorism material support bill.
Fueled by inaccurate reporting claiming that the bill would make following sharia law a felony, Muslims in Tennessee turned out in force to oppose this bill. Ironically, Suleyman, who led the lobbying against the bill, told the ISPU panel that:
I never knew the concept of sharia…I called imams across the state and I was like guys what is sharia? I gotta go talk to politicians.
In 2014 ISPU published a report titled Manufacturing Bigotry: A State-By-State Legislative Effort to Pushback against 2050 by Targeting Muslims and Other Minorities, in an effort to connect alleged Islamophobia to the larger leftist agenda and emphasize the eventual demographic shift to a “majority-minority” population by the year 2050.
Using an interactive map, the ISPU targeted state legislators, including several in Tennessee, who sponsored bills relating to “1) Restrictions on abortion rights and access, 2) “Defense of Marriage Act” bills (DOMA) and other bans on same-sex marriage, 3) Right-to-Work legislation, 4) Anti-immigration proposals, 5) “Voter Identification” requirements, and 6) Anti- Sharia/Anti-“Foreign Law” bills.”
Overall, the ISPU report blames Republicans for trying to restrict the rights of and disenfranchise “historically marginalized groups” as represented by the legislation categories they examined.
TIRRC has previously received Soros funding funneled through Neo Philanthropy’s Four Freedom Funds. In 2017, TIRRC also received grant funding from Unbound Philanthropy whose executive director is a board member of a Soros Open Society program.