Texas Politics

‘Bigotry has no place in our party.’ Republicans disgusted by Tarrant Muslim controversy

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

Disgusted. Embarrassed. Disappointed.

These were among the words many used to describe their reaction this week to an effort by some Republicans to take “our party back” and remove a top Tarrant County Republican official because he’s Muslim.

“Why I left the Republican Party,” Kay Porter tweeted. “Embarrassing.”

The Star-Telegram reported Tuesday that posts on social media — and requests sent directly to Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman Darl Easton — called for Dr. Shahid Shafi, a Southlake councilman, to be removed from the post of vice chairman 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 — was quick to speak against the effort, calling it disgusting and embarrassing. He has received emails and phone calls from those supporting Shafi.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Tarrant Republicans to reject calls to remove Shafi from office.

“It’s time for GOP leaders to take their party back from the Islamophobes and racists who are dividing our nation on religious, racial, gender, and ethnic lines,” said John Janney, executive director of CAIR-DFW. “Under the Constitution, there can be no religious test for voting, holding public office or for being an American.”

A formal request to remove Shafi from the party post could come up at an executive committee meeting in September or perhaps later in the year.

“The leadership of the Tarrant County Republican Party unequivocally rejects the religious discrimination being demonstrated by a few members of our Party,” Easton said in a statement released Wednesday night. “Intolerance, based on one’s faith, has no place in the construct of Tarrant County GOP policy, and violates the very principles and moral values upon which our Nation and the Republican Party were founded. Those immutable principles include individual freedom and religious liberty.

“The comments posted by a former precinct chair, who is no longer affiliated with and has no official standing with the Executive Committee of the Tarrant County GOP, reflect the opinions of a fringe few,” he wrote. “We, the members of the Tarrant County Republican Party leadership, are an organization that practices inclusion not exclusion of opinions and invite vigorous discussion of our differences. The vast majority of our Party’s membership is focused on unity of our Conservative principles and electing our slate of Republican candidates in November.”

Republican reaction

Legvold shared stories by the Star-Telegram, which was the first to write about her request to remove Shafi from office, and other publications, noting, “I’m in the news!” and “another rag made me their news this afternoon.”

Here’s some reaction from other Republicans:

“As a TCGOP Precinct Chair I hope this issue comes up for us to vote on at the next (Executive Committee) meeting,” Matthew Spano posted. “The vote wouldn’t even be close. Myself and the majority of EC members do not support their bigoted stance.”

“Dr. Shafi is my friend and a long time supporter,” state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, tweeted. “He has worked to advance Republican principles in Tarrant County.”

“I am not a precinct chair and therefore do not have a vote when the executive committee convenes in September,” state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, wrote on Facebook. “But, if I did, I would vote to keep Dr. Shafi in his current position and encourage him to keep up the good work.”

“This kind of bigotry has no place in our party and it, along with several others, is the reason the democrats will eventually come back into power in Texas,” Arlington Republican William Busby posted.

Linda Stumpff of Midlothian wrote to the Tarrant County Republican Party, asking that leaders reject attempts to remove Shafi from office.

“We cannot allow the extremists in our party to be the only voice that is heard in the public forum,” she wrote. “As a patriot and loyal party member, my love of my country stems from our foundation based on religious freedom. Our country was founded on Christian principles — one of the foundational being ‘love thy neighbor.’

“I implore you to not stand by and allow these bigoted extremists to become public spokespersons for our party. “

Democratic response

Democrats weighed in on the issue.

“This is disgusting,” state Rep. Chris Turner, a Grand Prairie Democrat who heads the House Democratic Caucus, wrote. “The intolerance and bigotry in today’s GOP has no place in our politics.”

Democrat Shane Hardin wrote several posts about the story. Among them:

“I cannot believe it ... racist tea party members in North Tarrant County,” he wrote. “The next thing ya know, someone is going to declare that Texas is hot in August as well.”

The Texas Democratic Party issued a statement on Wednesday.

“From the White House to Texas, Republicans in the era of Trump have mainstreamed Islamophobic rhetoric,” said Tariq Thowfeek, a party spokesman. “They have made Muslims in this state feel like no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack.

“Texas Democrats will not be bystanders to bigotry, keep that in mind over the next 76 days as you choose who to vote for.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley