Texas Politics

Plan to vote Muslim out of Tarrant GOP post is scheduled. But will it happen?

The countdown is on for the Tarrant County Republican Party to weigh in on whether a vice chairman of the party should be removed from his post because he’s Muslim.

This effort by a group of Republicans has drawn national attention as many wait to see what the Tarrant GOP will do about Shahid Shafi, a surgeon and Southlake City Council member.

“It’s just outrageous that we are doing this,” said Darl Easton, the GOP party chairman who appointed Shafi to the post six months ago. “It’s disgusting.”

A vote on the issue is scheduled for Jan. 10.

But the question now is whether that vote will actually occur.

Talk has bubbled on social media and among Republicans about compromises, a secret versus public vote and even potentially delaying the vote indefinitely.

At issue is Easton’s appointment last summer. He remembers one person speaking against the proposal before Republicans at an organizational meeting approved his slate of nominees, including Shafi.

Before long, Dorrie O’Brien — a precinct chairwoman from Grand Prairie — asked for the appointment to be reconsidered. She and others say this is not about religion but whether Shafi is loyal to Islam and Islamic law or connected “to Islamic terror groups.”

“We don’t think he’s suitable as a practicing Muslim to be vice chair because he’d be the representative for ALL Republicans in Tarrant County, and not ALL Republicans in Tarrant County think Islam is safe or acceptable in the U.S., in Tarrant County, and in the TCGOP,” O’Brien recently posted on Facebook. “There are big questions surrounding exactly where Dr. Shafi’s loyalties lie.”

Compromise?

Internal GOP emails about the issue delivered anonymously to the Star-Telegram, which has been covering this effort since August, show that the effort to remove Shafi has expanded.

Others now targeted include Easton; a precinct chair and area leader, Kelly Canon; and a precinct chair who is married to a Muslim, Lisa Grimaldi Abdulkareem.

Some top Texas Republicans — including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and House Speaker Joe Straus — have condemned efforts to remove Shafi, as have Tarrant County Republicans including County Judge Glen Whitley, Sheriff Bill Waybourn and District Clerk Tom Wilder.

O’Brien recently posted on Facebook that a “compromise” she proposed regarding Shafi has fallen through.

She said she believes her side has enough votes to recall Shafi’s appointment as vice chairman. Some fear the vote could prompt a civil war in the party.

That not only would destroy a unified effort to re-elect President Donald Trump but would also likely hurt the Tarrant County Lincoln Day fundraiser, O’Brien’s post read.

In her post, she said her proposal calls for former Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman Steve Hollern to resign as the party’s chairman of the Education and Training Committee and for Shafi to resign his post as vice chairman of the party. Then Shafi would be appointed chairman of the committee.

She posted that the compromise was rejected and that Easton hadn’t countered with another offer.

“Not only did he start this situation with his ill-advised appointment over some really good advice not to, but he continues to bungle and mishandle it after numerous opportunities to bring it to a close,” O’Brien wrote. “His ego, pride, hubris, whatever, is blinding him to the reality of how close to the edge of disaster his decisions have led the TCGOP.”

Easton said the “compromise” as originally presented was rejected, but he “wouldn’t say a compromise has been totally ruled out.”

With a week to go before the scheduled vote, Easton said anything could happen.

“We are very optimistic that we have more votes than they do,” he said. “But it’s who shows up.”

Jan. 10 vote on removal

The agenda for the Jan. 10 meeting notes that the first part of the meeting will be to continue the Nov. 10 behind-closed-doors discussion about whether to remove Shafi.

Among the possibilities:

Those private discussions could continue.

A proposal could be made for an immediate public vote on the issue.

A proposal could be made to indefinitely postpone consideration of the proposal to remove Shafi.

Members could approve a proposed rules change that would eliminate the two vice chairmen positions and replace them with just one vice chairman. And that person would be elected by the executive committee, which is made up of precinct chairmen.

A vote on the proposal could occur.

Sharia

Shafi, an immigrant from Pakistan, 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 Sharia.

Sharia is a set of core principles derived from the teachings of the Quran, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

“If somebody is wondering if one can be a Muslim and a ... good American, I am a living example of that,” Shafi told the Star-Telegram last month. “Sharia Law — I have no interest in living under Sharia Law.”

Shafi said he has been overwhelmed with support since O’Brien and others began talking about removing him from his post.

“It has reaffirmed my faith in the party and reaffirmed my faith in the country,” he said. “I’m very proud to be an American and very proud to be a Republican.”

Hollern recently sent a letter to precinct chairmen urging them to keep Shafi in his position as a vice chairman.

The current efforts by a misguided few to remove Dr. Shafi from Party leadership runs contrary to all principles Republicans have stood for,” he wrote. “And it is detrimental to the image of the Republican Party.

He said the effort by “a few folks with retrograde paranoia” who hope to remove Shafi from the party post because he is Muslim is wrong.

Don’t be mistaken, I am as concerned as anyone about radical Islam and jihadi terrorists — as I’m sure Dr. Shafi is,” Hollern wrote. But Dr. Shafi is not one of them.

“Please join me in sustaining Dr. Shafi’s appointment at our January 10th EC meeting and redeeming the TCGOP in the eyes of the general public. After all, Dr. Shafi has been endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz and many of the county elected officials. The TCGOP Executive Committee should not be out of step.”

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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.
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