Tarrant Republicans invited to train with anti-Islam ex-FBI agent before vote on Muslim

Some Tarrant County Republicans are calling to remove a GOP official for his religion

Some Republicans who say it’s time they take “our party back” are pushing to remove a Tarrant County GOP official because he’s Muslim. Posts on social media are calling for Dr. Shahid Shafi to be removed from vice chair of the local Republican party
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Some Republicans who say it’s time they take “our party back” are pushing to remove a Tarrant County GOP official because he’s Muslim. Posts on social media are calling for Dr. Shahid Shafi to be removed from vice chair of the local Republican party

Less than two weeks before Tarrant Republicans plan to vote on whether to remove a Muslim from a party leadership post, some first will meet with an anti-Islam, former FBI agent.

Many of the party’s local precinct chairs have been invited to attend a private six-hour gathering — on the topic of “Islam and Sharia Law versus the U.S. Constitution; are they Compatible?” — on Dec. 29 with John Guandolo at an undisclosed location, according to emails shared with the Star-Telegram.

This is the same group of people who will vote in January on a controversial proposal to remove Shahid Shafi, a Muslim, from a party leadership post.

On Monday, the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for the cancellation of the event featuring a man who they say “has peddled conspiracy theories about Islam and Muslims.”

“Given Guandolo’s history of anti-Muslim bigotry, this training will inevitably incite hatred of Islam and Muslims,” acting CAIR-DFW Executive Director Ekram Haque said in a statement. “We urge ... (the cancellation of) the event and call on Texas GOP leaders to repudiate this merchant of hate and his bigoted message.”

The time and location of the event hasn’t been announced because there is a “possible security problem” because “one of our own, a member of the dark side, is talking to the press,” according to an email from Republican Dale Attebery to other precinct chairs.

In another email, he promised a presentation by Guandolo that will include “facts/figures that will frighten you,” the Texas Observer also reported.

“To date, we have an impressive number of requests” to attend, he wrote.

The issue of whether to remove Shafi from his position was discussed by Republicans behind closed doors during their Nov. 10 meeting. A vote is scheduled Jan. 10 for the Tarrant County GOP executive committee, which is made up of precinct chairmen.

Tarrant Republicans

At issue is an effort that began months ago when a small group of Tarrant Republicans began pushing to remove Shafi from the post of vice chairman.

Those behind the move to oust Shafi, a surgeon and Southlake City Council member, say this is not about religion but whether Shafi is loyal to Islam and Islamic law or connected “to Islamic terror groups.”

The Star-Telegram recently reported that the effort to remove Shafi has expanded. Others targeted include the party chairman, Darl Easton; a precinct chairwoman and area leader, Kelly Canon; and a precinct chairwoman who is married to a Muslim, Lisa Grimaldi Abdulkareem.

Printouts of emails detailing the efforts were delivered anonymously to the Star-Telegram, which has been writing about this effort since August.

The reason for the Dec. 29 training class, Attebery writes in an email, is “because we need to know the truth before Jan. 10.”

Tarrant proposal

Easton, who appointed Shafi over the summer, has said the effort to remove Shafi and others is wrong.

There’s an online petition calling for Easton to step down, but he has said he won’t.

Republican Dorrie O’Brien, a Republican precinct chairwoman from Grand Prairie, asked earlier this year for Shafi’s appointment to be reconsidered.

The issue was delayed until after the Nov. 6 election, which saw Tarrant County turning blue in the U.S. Senate race.

The effort first became public after O’Brien and others made posts on social media calling for reconsideration of the appointment.

“Dr. Shafi is a practicing, Mosque-attending muslim who claims not to follow sharia law or know what it is,” activist Sara Legvold wrote on the Protect Texas Facebook page in calling for his removal. “As a practicing muslim that is an overt falsehood. Sharia law is anathema to our Constitution because Islam recognizes no other law but shariah.

“As the most conservative county in the nation, this is a demoralizing blow to the conservative rank and file of the Republican Party across the nation and in Texas.”

Shafi has said he became a U.S. citizen in 2009 and soon joined the Republican Party.

He said he’s not associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, nor the Council on American-Islamic Relations, “nor any terrorist organization.” He also said he supports Second Amendment rights and American Laws for American Courts. And he said he’s never promoted Shariah.

Several top Republicans have spoken out against the effort to remove Shafi.

And the State Republican Executive Committee on Saturday passed a resolution stressing that members across the state have the “freedom to practice all faiths.”

The resolution in part states that all “Republican county executive committees (are encouraged) to follow the Rules of the Republican Party of Texas related to participation in meetings and conventions; and reaffirm our core values of religious liberty and the freedom to practice all faiths. “

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.