Texas leaders denounce Tarrant GOP effort to remove Muslim from Republican post

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

Two Texas officials are calling on Tarrant County Republicans to defeat an effort by some in their party to remove a Muslim from local GOP leadership.

At issue is a controversial 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.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who lived in Fort Worth before being elected to statewide office, was the first to weigh in on Friday.

“I urge the Tarrant County GOP to stop this attempt to remove a hardworking county party official based on religious beliefs,” Bush tweeted. “We must move towards a more inclusive Republican Party and stop tearing down our own if we are to keep Texas red.”

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus also posted a message on social media about the situation that has gained increased media attention.

“Some in the Tarrant County Republican Party want to remove a party officer because of his religious faith,” he wrote. “This effort is disgraceful and un-American, and Republicans in Tarrant County should defeat it handily.”

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 reported earlier this week that the effort to remove Shafi has expanded and others now targeted include the party chair, Darl Easton; a precinct chair and area leader, Kelly Canon; and a precinct chair 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.

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.

Remove Shafi

Friday’s comments come one day after Travis County Republican Party chairman Matt Mackowiak emailed a letter to Easton asking him to “reject a bigoted effort ... to remove a Muslim individual from your leadership and remove another precinct chair who is married to a Muslim.”

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.

Support Shafi

Others to weigh in on the issue include the State Republican Executive Committee, which posted online a resolution supporting Shafi as a vice chair in Tarrant County.

It states that Shafi “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 goes on to say. “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.