Texas Republicans are battling over a local faction’s efforts to oust a GOP county official over his Muslim religious beliefs.
Republicans in Tarrant County – one of the most populous counties in Texas – are set to vote on whether to remove Dr. Shahid Shafi from his position as the party’s vice chair Thursday.
Shafi, a trauma surgeon and Southlake city councilman born in India and raised in Pakistan, was appointed as the county party’s vice chair in July, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Since Precinct Chairman Dorrie O’Brien has led efforts to reconsider his appointment as she’s contended his religious beliefs are not in line with those he represents in Tarrant County.
“We don’t think he’s suitable as a practicing Muslim to be vice chair because he’d be the representative for ALL Republicans in Tarrant County, and not ALL Republicans in Tarrant County think Islam is safe or acceptable in the U.S., in Tarrant County, and in the TCGOP, and there are big questions surrounding exactly where Dr. Shafi’s loyalties lie, vis a vis Democrat and Republican policies,” O’Brien wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. She has frequently posted on social media about her efforts to remove Shafi and criticizing his religious background.
Shafi, who became a U.S. citizen in 2009, has repudiated allegations that he favors Sharia law over the American court system. He’s denied any connections to terrorist organizations or the Muslim Brotherhood.
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Despite the push from some in the Tarrant County GOP, Shafi has gotten support from more prominent Republicans, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
“Discrimination against Dr. Shafi [because] he’s Muslim is wrong,” Cruz said in a December tweet. “The Constitution prohibits any religious test for public office [and] the First Amendment protects religious liberty for every faith. The Party of Lincoln should welcome everybody [and] celebrate Liberty.”
Bush said the GOP needs to “move towards a more inclusive Republican Party and stop tearing down our own if we are to keep Texas red” as he called for the county party to stop the efforts to remove Shafi.
Additionally, the Texas GOP executive committee passed a resolution last month affirming its commitment against discrimination. The resolution states the state party “affirms and supports all Americans’ right to practice their religion … and recognizes the contributions of Republicans of every faith who advance conservative policies and ideals.”
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Shafi said the resolution “reaffirmed my faith in our party and in our country.”
“Today we removed all doubts as to what we are and what we believe in as conservatives and Republicans and I will take that message back to Tarrant County,” he said, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “This is and remains and should always be the party of Lincoln and Reagan.”
Tarrant County GOP Chairman Darl Easton, who appointed Shafi, chalked up the efforts to oust the doctor to “religious prejudice.”
Shafi is “very active with the party, but most of the people don’t even care about what he’s done. Most of them already have a prejudice against Muslims, and a lot of that comes from the attack on 9/11 and the Sharia law they claim all Muslims must obey,” Easton told The Texas Tribune.
Easton is also the subject of an online petition calling for his removal as the Tarrant County GOP chair.
“Regardless of which side one takes on the appointment of Shahid Shafi … Darl Easton should have foreseen that such a controversial appointment would plunge the Tarrant County GOP into division and created a public relations nightmare for our party. The only press the Tarrant GOP has gotten with Darl at the helm is bad press,” the petition states.
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Tarrant County includes the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington in Texas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.