The Southlake Republican Club meeting Wednesday night began with a stirring color guard complete with bagpipes and drums, and a rousing patriotic retelling of the historic heroism of Valley Forge.
The colors were presented by the Southlake Department of Public Safety. The patriotism was courtesy of none other than Shahid Shafi — the man who some want to drum out of his Tarrant County GOP vice chairmanship because he’s a Muslim.
Whether Shafi’s poignant recitation of the Revolutionary War’s pivot point was organic — or a pointed pledge of allegiance from a man whose fealty to our founding principles has unfairly been put into question — didn’t seem to matter. Nor did his oratory appear to be some kind of jihadi mind trick.
This is a man who clearly loves this country.
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Yet not only do some in his party want him removed, but emails obtained by The Star-Telegram this past week show that at least three others in the party’s local leadership are being targeted as well — including county chairman Darl Easton, who appointed Shafi to his post, and precinct chairwoman Lisa Grimaldi Abdulkareem, who is married to a Muslim. The third, precinct chairwoman Kelly Canon, has supported Shafi.
We know the vast majority of Republicans in the county find this attack on religious freedom — a cherished conservative value — abhorrent. But how has the party’s apparatus been hijacked by a handful of insurgents for so long? This unsavory sideshow had already gone on for months when the executive committee, which is made up of precinct chairmen, failed to resolve Shafi’s status at a daylong meeting Nov. 10
Now it may drag on until at least their next meeting Jan. 10. Why is this so hard?
As this ulcer festers through the Christmas season, we also realize that county Republicans of good intent don’t appreciate the bad publicity this has generated. We take no pleasure in reporting or commenting on it. But this matter represents a momentous and fundamental question of American society that, frankly, we thought had been answered as long ago as a Catholic president’s election in 1960: Can you adhere to a religion while pledging allegiance to America?
That it’s taking Tarrant County Republicans so many months to answer that rather fundamental question is news, like it or not.
It’s also a paramount question for a local party which, on Nov. 6, lost a surprising number of elections and won too many close ones on what they thought was Republican terra firma. Panelists and audience members at the Southlake meeting Wednesday pondered how to grow the party’s appeal to an expanding number of residents and voters. It’s a safe bet that jettisoning a party officeholder for his religion isn’t a way to do that.
More party faithful need to stand up and say — as Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder did last week — that this attack is coming from a small few who don’t reflect the rank-and-file’s views.
They need to say it at least as loudly as Shafi has proclaimed his patriotism.