Texas Politics

‘It is time we took our party back.’ Some Tarrant Republicans want Muslim leader out

Some Republicans who say it’s time they take “our party back” are pushing to remove a top Tarrant County GOP official because he’s Muslim.

Posts on social media — and requests sent directly to Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman Darl Easton — are calling for Dr. Shahid Shafi to be removed from the post of vice chair of the local Republican party.

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“Dr. Shafi is a practicing, Mosque-attending muslim who claims not to follow sharia law or know what it is,” Republican Sara Legvold wrote on the Protect Texas Facebook page in calling for Shafi’s 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.”

Easton — who took office earlier this summer and personally appointed Shafi — is pushing back.

“I think it’s disgusting,” he said when asked about the move to have Shafi removed from the GOP post. “It’s very embarrassing to me that the party is doing this.

“I’m not going to remove him on my own. That’s hypocrisy.”

Nonetheless, a formal request to remove Shafi from the party post might come up at an executive committee meeting in September.

“Please explain to me ... why we need a Muslim in the SREC in Tarrant County! There are no Conservative Muslims or Moderate ones!” Republican Vicky Underhill posted on the Republican Women of Arlington Facebook page.

This move, in one of the reddest counties in Texas, could have a long-lasting impact on the Republican Party.

“The Republican Party is in danger of being seen as intolerant and non-inclusive in a political environment where those ideas are a serious political liability,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Even if the actions don’t go anywhere, the damage to the party’s reputation, both local and statewide, can linger through November and beyond.

“These are the kinds of actions that go viral and hurt a party’s reputation in Texas and beyond.”

Easton called this situation “a mess.”

Easton believes any push to remove Shafi — a member of the Southlake City Council who has served as a delegate to Texas GOP state conventions several times — will fail.

“I think the majority of the Republican precinct chairs will vote down this effort to bring religious discrimination into the party,” he said.

When asked about the effort to oust him, Shafi said, “I am honored to serve as (Easton’s) vice chair.”

Religious factors

Religion became a factor earlier this year in Euless, when state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, noted online that Salman Bhojani, then a candidate for the Euless City Council, “is a Muslim, lawyer, and a lifelong Democrat who supports raising your taxes.”

Stickland said he brought up religion in that race only after Bhojani did so first by having the Koran read during a council meeting. Bhojani said the passage from the Koran was about solidarity among faiths.

Bhojani ended up winning that race with 50.44 percent of the vote.

“As we saw across the nation, there were over 90 muslims running for office, with 2 or 3 winning their Primary races along with a Democrat Muslim recently winning an election for City Council in Euless, Texas,” Legvold continued in her post. “Dr. Shafi also recently won a second term on the City Council from Southlake.”

Legvold is a former member of the State Republican Executive Committee in Texas. At one point, a petition was started to remove her from office because she “demonstrated repeatedly in public that she hates on immigrants, particularly those from Mexico, and is contemptuous of any Republicans who dare support immigration reform.”

“Those of us who follow this islamisation issue closely are very concerned at this infiltration of the nation’s most conservative county and the ramifications to our continuing to remain a red State,” Legvold wrote.

Longtime Republican Mona Bailey, who heads the Tarrant County party’s finance committee, said it’s upsetting that this push is happening.

She said she’s known Shafi for nine or 10 years and called him a patriotic conservative.

“He’s not who they are portraying him to be,” Bailey said. “It’s a little bit disconcerting.”

‘A few radicals’

Easton appointed a slate of officials, including Shafi as a vice chairman, during an organizational meeting in July.

He remembers one person speaking against naming Shafi to party leadership before those present voted to approve the slate.

He plans to send a letter to precinct chairmen before the September meeting noting that the U.S. and Texas Constitutions say no religious tests should be required for someone to hold office. And the rules of the Republican Party of Texas oppose discrimination.

“I think it’s inappropriate for the party, for any member of the party, to do this,” he said. “The majority of the people I know have renounced that ... but there’s always a few radicals. I know they’ve got some support out there.”

Legvold’s post takes shots at the Republican Party of Texas and expresses concern about changes to the party platform, which she said is “the heart & soul of the party and the delegates” who work on it.

Legvold urged Republicans to reach out to local leaders, precinct chairmen and State Republican Executive Committee members to ask for Shafi’s removal.

“It is past time we took our Party back with no apologies to anyone before any more damage is done to the rank and file citizens of our State who are tired of being ignored by those we have entrusted to represent us,” she wrote.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley