Texas Republican officials on Saturday passed a resolution stressing that members across the state have the “freedom to practice all faiths.”
The measure, unanimously approved by the State Republican Executive Committee in Austin, does not specifically mention Tarrant County, but it comes in the wake of a proposal by some local Republicans to remove a Muslim from a party leadership post.
“This is the Republican Party of Texas,” Republican JT Edwards of Senate District 11 said in urging members to support the resolution during the quarterly meeting Saturday. “We are not the party of bigots. ... We are not.”
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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At issue is an effort that began months ago when a small group of Tarrant Republicans began pushing to remove Shahid Shafi, a Muslim, 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.
“We are keenly aware of what is going on, what needs to be done and we are working through this process,” executive committee member Susan Wright, wife of U.S. Rep.-elect Ron Wright, said during the meeting. “We are blisteringly aware of the media and the impact of it.
“We do have some people who have raised this issue and are pushing their ideas. Our party has rules to allow that. It is messy and we are not pleased with the sausage making,” she said. “But our (executive committee) has the right to work through (this).”
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.
“The SREC made a clear statement today -- racism and bigotry is not what the Republican Party of Texas stands for,” James Dickey, who heads the Texas Republican Party, said in a statement. “We welcome all who share our values of limited government, the sanctity of life, educational opportunity, personal responsibility and a thriving free-market economy.
“These are the bedrock principles of the Republican Party, and we will continue to push that message and fight bigotry, wherever it may be.”
Easton, who appointed Shafi over the summer, has said these efforts 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 Shafi’s 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.
On Saturday, after the resolution was approved, he spoke to the executive committee.
“I believe that it’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about what we stand for as a party and a country. There were moments of doubt in my own mind. But today, there are no doubts about what we are and what we believe in.
“And I will take that message back to Tarrant County and tell them that this is and remains and always should be the party of Lincoln and Reagan,” he said. “I want to thank you all. I am hopeful for our country and I am hopeful for our party.”