It is still up in the air whether a small group of Tarrant Republicans will succeed in a controversial plan to oust a leader of their party because he’s Muslim.
Tarrant Republican precinct chairs met for nearly four hours Saturday — and considered the issue behind closed doors for more than an hour — before adjourning without voting on the proposal.
“There was no vote on this today,” Tarrant Republican Chair Darl Easton said after the group adjourned, noting that the issue will come up again at a January meeting. “The for and against speakers (never) got exhausted.”
This proposal came up earlier this year but was shelved until after the Nov. 6 election.
It comes at the request of Republican Dorrie O’Brien, who proposed that the appointment of Shahid Shafi, named vice chairman of the local GOP this summer, be reconsidered.
As Republican leaders privately discussed the push to remove Shafi Saturday, a message appeared on television screens in the lobby of the Faith Creek Church in Richland Hills where those not allowed in the meeting gathered..
“Hey, Dorrie here,” the message stated. “If you do ask shafi to not accept the position, please please please do not mention anything about the MB as part of your reason. He will deny it, and mess with your head.
“If he said yes, he’s still mess with your head. These dawah guys are very good. As to the S-T branding the TCGOP as a bunch of bigots or racists, they don’t need an excuse, they do it already. We’re patriots who don’t allow jihadists to play in the fields of the lord.”
Tarrant County GOP Chair Darl Easton earlier this year appointed Shafi to party leadership and Republicans approved the nomination.
Several Republicans cautioned the party — at this crucial time, when the local GOP suffered unexpected losses during the midterm election and could see more in 2020 — about voting to remove Shafi.
“If you vote this man off the board today, you’re going to send the wrong message,” Willie Billups, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, for the 33rd Congressional District, told the crowd. “You’ll have secondary effects that you’re going to be sending to people around the country and around the state.
“If you do this ladies and gentlemen . . . what message is being sent to other minority communities?”
O’Brien, a Republican precinct chair from Grand Prairie, and others have made several posts on social media this year calling for the removal of Shafi.
“Dr. Shafi is a practicing, Mosque-attending muslim who claims not to follow sharia law or know what it is,” Republican 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.”
Many local Republicans have condemned the move.
Easton has spoken up for Shafi.
“The leadership of the Tarrant County Republican Party unequivocally rejects the religious discrimination being demonstrated by a few members of our Party,” Easton said in a statement earlier this year.
“Intolerance, based on one’s faith, has no place in the construct of Tarrant County GOP policy, and violates the very principles and moral values upon which our Nation and the Republican Party were founded.”
O’Brien shared a statement with the Star-Telegram before she read it during the closed part of the meeting.
“This is not a case of religious bigotry, nor a personal attack on one man for his protected religious beliefs. Islam is primarily a political ideology that has advanced historically under its shield of religion; we are questioning Dr. Shafi’s complete dedication to political Islam,” she wrote.
“We don’t care about the Islamic religion; it is certainly Dr. Shafi’s choice to believe whatever he wants,” O’Brien’s statement read. “We do care very much about political Islam with its global jihad to conquer nations and make them Islamic and ruled by Shari’a law, which is completely antithetical to our way of life.”
Shafi, a surgeon and Southlake city councilman, has long remained quiet about the effort to remove him from office.
He led the crowd Saturday in saying the pledge of allegiance. And he spoke briefly before a lengthy parliamentary discussion on how this vote would occur.
Shafi said the past few months have been painful for himself and his family “because of the attacks on us by a small, very small group of people, because we happen to be Muslims.”
He talked about his work as a trauma surgeon and how he and his team worked together, just as the Republican Party should, for a greater good.
“When we work together in that spirit, then even if we fail, even if we fail, our nation will emerge stronger,” he said.
Many in the group applauded his comments, some gave him a standing ovation. At least one woman in the crowd gave Shafi an obvious thumbs down.
He recently released a statement about this effort.
“I can’t allow this small group of closed-minded people to damage our party that I’ve supported and served for several years,” he wrote. “The call to remove me from the party of Lincoln and Reagan because of my religion is wrong for several reasons.
“First, discrimination based upon religion is illegal, immoral, unethical, un-American, and against the foundations of our country and the principles of our party,” he wrote. “Second, it plays right into the false narrative of racism and bigotry fomented against the Republican party. Third, it distracts from our core value of religious liberty.”
Shafi defended himself against accusations. He said he’s never associated with the Muslim Brotherhood nor CAIR “nor any terrorist organization.” He also said supports second Amendment rights and American Laws for American Courts. And he said he’s never promoted Sharia Law.
Shafi said he became a U.S. citizen in 2009 and soon joined the Republican Party.
“I believe that much of the hate against Muslims is driven by a fear of terrorism. I understand these fears and I stand together with Americans of all faiths to protect our Nation,” he wrote. “A nation divided by hate and fear makes us weaker, and our enemies stronger.”