Texas Politics

Tarrant Muslim who survived party ouster urges Republicans to unite, ‘move forward’

Shahid Shafi shared a message of hope and unity Saturday.

One month after a high-profile proposal failed to oust him as a vice chair of the Tarrant County Republican Party — because he is Muslim — he said he wants to inspire others and help reunite the local party.

“I hold no animosity toward anybody in this group,” he said during a Saturday morning Executive Committee meeting at the Faith Creek Church in Richland Hills. “We need to ... move forward.”

Shafi, a surgeon and Southlake councilman, said he believes one of the most important things he can do is try to inspire others.

So that, he said, is what he will work to do.

After his brief comments, local Republicans also approved a slate of resolutions, including one urging Texas lawmakers to pass a law protecting “the sincerely held religious beliefs” of people, businesses and groups.

All this come after a proposal to oust Shafi from leadership percolated for half a year, drawing national attention to Tarrant County.

That effort arose in 2018 after Dorrie O’Brien, a precinct chairwoman from Grand Prairie, asked for a reconsideration of his appointment. She and others said the effort to remove Shafi wasn’t about religion but whether he was loyal to Islam and Islamic law or connected to Islamic terror groups.

O’Brien’s motion was delayed until after the Nov. 6 election, which saw Tarrant County turn blue in the U.S. Senate race. Hours of discussion behind closed doors during a November meeting left the issue unresolved and pushed it to Jan. 10.

Party leaders voted 139-49 last month to keep Shafi as one of the party’s vice chairmen.

Shafi has said the vote took a stand “against bigotry of all kinds.”

But the vote didn’t end the local controversy.

A Rio Grande Valley man offered a “$500 cash bounty” to anyone who could give him the names of the 49 who voted against Shafi. Party officials said the party won’t publicly release a list showing how precinct chairmen voted on this issue behind closed doors.

Then one of the vocal supporters of removing Shafi from the post, James Scott Trimm, was named to a Tarrant County GOP recruitment committee. Shortly after that, party officials announced that the same committee was being disbanded, at least temporarily.

Next week, Tarrant Republicans host their Feb. 16 Lincoln Day dinner, a key fundraiser for the party that many fear may be impacted by the months of controversy that surrounded the proposal to remove Shafi.

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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.