Gov. Bill Haslam spoke Tuesday to what used to be rock-ribbed Republicans, answering questions about Shariah law, health care reform and judicial selection in a lunchtime appearance before Davidson County Republicans.

Answering a question from the crowd, Haslam defended his decision to hire and stand by Samar Ali, a Muslim woman working in the Department of Economic and Community Development, as reflecting his fundamental moral values, despite continued claims by some Republicans that she is secretly part of a plot to impose Shariah law on the state of Tennessee.

Haslam said that Ali, a native of Waverly, Tenn., serves as a trade representative for Tennessee and has no involvement with Islamic law beyond once having advised Middle Eastern clients on how to structure financial transactions.

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