Texas

Tarrant Republicans who want to remove Muslim are targeting others in party

Continuing developments: Republican official tells Tarrant GOP to reject bigotry and leave Muslim leader alone.

An effort to remove a Muslim from Tarrant County Republican Party leadership is expanding.

In addition to a push to remove Shahid Shafi, a Muslim, from the post of vice chairman, some Republicans are hoping to oust at least three more people from positions within the party.

Others targeted include:

Darl Easton, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party.

Kelly Canon, a GOP precinct chairwoman believed to be the subject in a party member’s email describing 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.

Calls for these Republicans to be removed as GOP leaders were detailed in several emails Republican Dale Attebery sent to others in the party. Printouts of those messages were anonymously delivered to the Star-Telegram.

“This is a political campaign, just like any other campaign, but for a party office,” Attebery wrote in an Oct. 18 email, noting that there are two people in office “who do not belong there, as neither one has the best interest of good Conservatives, loyal Republicans and avid TEA Partiers in mind.”

That email also called for seeking Easton’s resignation, and a separate email noted that it’s time to remove Canon, who is believed to be the one referred to as a Democrat in the email.

“We have become overly lax,” that email stated.

The effort to oust GOP members from leadership positions began earlier this year when Republican Dorrie O’Brien asked for Shafi’s appointment to be reconsidered.

It 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.”

Many in the party oppose the effort to remove Shafi.

“If the Republican Party doesn’t stand up against those who want to discriminate against others ... it will be the downfall of the Republican Party eventually,” Abdulkareem said in an email responding to Star-Telegram questions. “It starts with Dr. Shafi, myself and Kelly Canon. But what happens when next they decide they don’t like Catholics or the Methodists?

“Where does the discrimination end? I believe people need to speak up loudly and let the few know that this is NOT right and it won’t be tolerated. To sit and say nothing is basically agreeing with the minority that could easily become the majority if nothing is done.”

Attebery’s emails note that the effort includes himself, O’Brien, Sara Legvold and Bret Coody. Each either declined or didn’t respond to requests for comment from the Star-Telegram.

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.

‘Anti-Islamic narrative’

Tarrant Republican activist James Scott Trimm criticized Easton because as he appointed and defended Shafi and others, Democrat Beto O’Rourke won the reliably red Tarrant County in the U.S. Senate battle against Republican Ted Cruz. Easton took office last summer.

Trimm has posted an online petition calling for Easton to resign. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had 32 signatures.

“Darl’s leadership has brought disunity to the party,” Trimm said. “Tarrant County is turning purple while Darl is more concerned with defending controversial appointments.”

And Trimm stressed that it’s not just a “small group” that want Shafi removed from office. He personally wants to see him removed, not because of his religion, but because he doesn’t think Shafi agrees with the Republican Party’s pro-Israel platform.

Easton said he doesn’t plan to step down and he believes that calls to remove Republicans from their posts are wrong.

He said he believes all this is “caused by an unwarranted fear that all Muslims are proponents of the radical tenets of Shariah.”

And while the issue of Shafi’s appointment may be resolved in January, “the anti-Islamic narrative by those demanding the removal of others will not just go away.”

Attebery’s email talks about removing Abdulkareem, whose husband is a U.S. citizen and Muslim, referring to her only as the “V-Chair for the standing committee responsible for recruiting new precinct chairs and other volunteers.”

An Oct. 17 email states reasons, such as that Abdulkareem tweeted a picture taken of an apparent anti-Trump arts display at a Fort Worth Arts Festival ... “with a ‘hallelujah’ hands emoji for her commentary.” That tweet apparently drew “virulently anti-Trump tweets and retweets,” the email stated.

“After seeing these things, would it be a fair, and in fact reasonable, question to ask ourselves what someone with these sentiments is doing in our party?” Attebery’s email read.

Abdulkareem said she became a target after standing up for Shafi.

“I wouldn’t change a thing and will never let him stand alone in this fight,” she said. “He is a good man and gives a lot of himself to help the party. If they are successful in removing him then there is no need to remove me because I will resign and walk out with him. Many others have pledged to do the same.

“I also pray daily for Darl Easton,” she said. “All he wants to do is move the party further and these people won’t allow him to do that. I can’t imagine the emotional toll this is taking on him and his wife. They are good people. Darl is nothing but honest and hardworking and these people should be ashamed of how they have treated him.”

As for Canon, there’s one reference in an undated message that says “we need to remove at least 1 Democrat who has managed to obtain the position of Area Leader.”

Some say that refers to Canon, who was a Democrat more than a decade ago before joining the GOP. She has been outspoken about her opposition to removing Shafi from office.

“If this small group is successful in removing Dr. Shafi, I’ll resign my post as area leader and precinct chair,” she told the Star-Telegram in mid-November. “I’m not going to be part of that. I’ve got more important things I can do.”

Battle over 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,” 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.

Attebery wrote an email on Nov. 18 stressing that local and national media are now seeking comments about this situation.

“We are not commenting to anyone,” he wrote in that message. “Remember please, members of the news media are Democrats, they have an agenda, they are not our friends and their favorite color is blue. Add to that, they are masters at cut/paste with out-of-context answers/statements. 2+2 equals 7 when dealing with those people. ... Be careful, please.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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