Texas Politics

Republican official tells Tarrant GOP to reject bigotry and leave Muslim leader alone

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

A top Travis County Republican is reaching out to Tarrant leaders, calling on them to shut down an effort to remove a Muslim — and others — from local GOP leadership.

Travis County Republican Party chairman Matt Mackowiak on Thursday emailed a letter to Tarrant County Chair Darl Easton asking him to “reject a bigoted effort launched by at least one of your precinct chairs to remove a Muslim individual from your leadership and remove another precinct chair who is married to a Muslim.”

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

Republican Dorrie O’Brien asked for Shafi’s appointment to be reconsidered and the issue ramped up — and expanded — after the Nov. 6 election, which saw Tarrant County turning blue in the U.S. Senate race.

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.”

There’s an online petition calling for Easton — who appointed Shafi earlier this year — to step down.

Easton has said he won’t step down and has repeatedly said that these efforts to remove Republicans from their posts are wrong.

In addition to calls to remove Shafi and Easton, a small group within the Tarrant County Republican Party, according to emails anonymously delivered to the Star-Telegram, is also targeting:

Kelly Canon, a GOP precinct chairwoman who has supported Shafi and been described indirectly in an email as a “Democrat who has managed to obtain the position of Area Leader.”

Lisa Grimaldi Abdulkareem, a GOP precinct chairwoman and vice chairwoman of the Tarrant County Republican Recruitment Division, who is married to a Muslim.

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.

Focus on the party

Mackowiak asked Easton to put an end to this effort.

“Some individuals may harbor fears or suspicions about other individuals. This is unavoidable,” he wrote. “Leadership requires us as County Chairs to focus on what is important.

“In my county, we have a three-part mission: Elect as many Republicans as possible, grow the party, and advance conservative principles. Anything outside that mission is not something in which we involve ourselves.”

Mackowiak’s letter was copied to Tarrant County GOP officers; James Dickey, who heads the state’s Republican Party; Alma Jackson, the vice chair of the state’s Republican Party; and state Republican executive committee members. A copy also was sent to the Star-Telegram.

Mackowiak said that as long as he leads the Travis County Republican Party, he will make sure the organization is welcoming “to people of all faiths — or no faith at all.”

“We need to be laser-focused on growing our party, something that both of our counties were reminded by the fact that the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate won Tarrant and Travis County just a few weeks ago,” he wrote to Easton. “I wish you good luck in the weeks and months to come.”

Push against Shafi

In August, a small group began calling for Shafi’s removal from party leadership.

O’Brien, a Republican precinct chairwoman from Grand Prairie, and others made several posts on social media calling for reconsideration of Shafi’s appointment to one of the vice chairman posts.

“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.

The State Republican Executive Committee has a resolution supporting Shafi as a vice chair in Tarrant County, stating that he “demonstrates through deed and voice his dedication and servant leadership to Republicans in his community and beyond.”

“Dr. Shafi brings vitality and the rich background of an immigrant who came to the US legally and sought out the American Dream,” the resolution states. “These are the values of the Party of Lincoln and Reagan, and we fully support his involvement and contributions to our shared cause.”

The resolution calls on Tarrant County Republicans to stand by Shafi and party platform planks “protecting and preserving religious liberty for all Americans.”

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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.