The first time Shahid Shafi ran for a seat on the city council in Southlake in 2011, advisers assured him a Muslim in post-9/11 America who spoke with an accent and emigrated from Pakistan would never win an election in Texas.
It’s a story that Shafi, a Republican trauma surgeon, likes to tell because he didn’t believe them. He won the Southlake City Council seat on his second try, in 2014, has since served as a delegate to multiple Texas GOP conventions and, in July, was appointed vice chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, located in Fort Worth.
But that’s when his religion somehow became a problem again — in the eyes of some Republican colleagues.
Shafi hadn’t held the position in the North Texas county for more than a couple of days before a precinct chairwoman urged Darl Easton, chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, to “reconsider” appointing Shafi to a leadership role, a request that was soon echoed by several other precinct chairs.
“The only reason she had was because he was a Muslim,” Easton told The Washington Post. “That was the only reason she gave.”
Since then, that precinct chairwoman, Dorrie O’Brien, and a small group of her supporters have put forth a formal motion to remove Shafi as vice chairman because of his religion, a motion that is slated for a vote Jan. 10. To Easton, who opposes the measure, the move is an embarrassment to the Republican Party. And to Shafi, it amounts to exactly what he believed did not exist in the United States when he arrived here 28 years ago: a religious test.
Over the past week, the movement to oust Shafi has drawn loud condemnation from Texas GOP leaders, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush and House Speaker Joe Straus. On Saturday, the Texas GOP Executive Committee passed a formal resolution reaffirming the GOP’s commitment to religious freedom and seeking to distance the party from the xenophobia that it fears the motion against Shafi may embolden. In Texas, it would not be the first time Republicans have tried to block Muslims from participating in GOP leadership roles. A Houston City Council staffer attempted, unsuccessfully, to block a Republican Harris County precinct chairman in 2016.
“Let’s show everybody, this is the Republican Party of Texas. We are not the party of bigots,” J.T. Edwards, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, said Saturday while urging support for the resolution, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
O’Brien, who declined to speak with The Post, has publicly asserted that Shafi promotes Sharia law and is affiliated with terrorist groups while offering no evidence other than that he is a mosque-attending Muslim. In lengthy tirades on Facebook reviewed by The Post, she has accused Shafi of being a “fake Republican” who perhaps became one at the urging of the Muslim Brotherhood so that he could infiltrate the party — again, without any evidence.
“This is, unfortunately, not the first time that people or my political opponents have tried to use my religion against me to distract the voters,” Shafi, who has fiercely denied O’Brien’s assertions, told The Post. “And unfortunately, I don’t think it will be the last either.”
The pleas from state leaders to stop the campaign to remove Shafi appear to have had little bearing on those supporting it. Emails first obtained by the Texas Observer and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram showed O’Brien and fellow Tarrant County Precinct Chairman Dale Attebery inviting John Guandolo, who is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “anti-Muslim activist,” to give a Dec. 29 “training” session on the dangers of Sharia law. A former FBI agent, Guandolo has described all Muslims as terrorists during these presentations and has said he believes that American political leaders “should be Christians.”
Attebery, in an email obtained by the Observer and Star-Telegram, said the reason for the class was “because we need to know the truth before Jan. 10,” the date of the vote on Shafi. When asked about the event, Easton stressed that while individual members within the Tarrant County GOP organized it, the party itself does not endorse the session.
“They promote it as, ‘We need to be extremely vigilant of Muslims in this country, particularly the ones running for political office . . . because they’ll take over and start implementing aspects of Sharia law that may be counter to U.S. law,’” he said. Easton said he does not expect such an event to sway his support for Shafi and believes that most precinct chairmen will support him as well.
The false generalizations about his religion, Shafi said, have been disheartening and offensive. Born in India but raised in Pakistan, Shafi came to the United States in 1990 to finish his medical degree and surgical residencies before becoming a naturalized citizen in 2009. He joined the Republican Party as a firm believer in small government, having experienced firsthand the oppressive overreach of Pakistan’s leaders. He saw public office as merely an extension of his mission as a surgeon, he said, with the difference being the opportunity to help hundreds or thousands rather than one patient at a time.
“This is my way of giving back to the community that has given me so much,” he said.
On Saturday, he traveled to the state GOP meeting so that he could be there to answer any questions from those voting on the religious freedom resolution. He was delighted, he said, that he did not have to try to convince them that he was just a regular Republican, free of terrorist ties and focused on lowering property taxes and improving school safety.
They voted 63-0 to pass the resolution — in turn, reaffirming Shafi’s belief in the party, he said.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be able to speak fully without breaking down,” Shafi told the room, the American-Statesman reported.
He revealed that “there were moments of doubt in my mind” over the past six months, as he feared that his own local party might really oust him. The easiest thing he could have done, he told The Post, was resign.
But he didn’t want to, believing it would signal a loss for religious freedom.
“The reason I have stayed on is because the issue before the party is not about who the vice chair should be. It’s much more fundamental than that,” Shafi said. “It is about religious freedom, and if we are going to have a test of religion in the party, where will we stop? If Muslim Americans are not welcome in the GOP, who will be excluded next?”
Bill Barr is serving notice to DOJ officials that he’ll ruin them if they investigate Trump: MSNBC host
An MSNBC discussion about Bill Barr running interference within the Justice Department for Donald Trump ended with "AM Joy" host Joy Reid suggesting that the attorney general's very public "media blitz" over the so-called "Horowitz Report" is a warning shot to anyone in the DOJ who thinks about investigating the president.
As Reid explained it, "He did a whole TV blitz to basically say that his own agency, the FBI, was spying on the Trump campaign, something that the inspector general said did not happen."
Reid took that to its logical conclusion.
"Now he’s saying, ‘Well, I’ve got a different report that’s going to find the motivations’ that he’s basically saying are bad motivations by people in the FBI. And if you’re that FBI agent and then you hear that Donald Trump may be again looking for foreign help and maybe again getting help from Russia or forcing help from Ukraine, what do you do?" she asked. "Would you then not be concerned that, should you go ahead and investigate foreign interference in our election, that William Barr may come after you?"
Stefanik voters turning on GOP lawmaker after she threw away her credibility to defend Trump
Over the course of the impeachment hearings, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) has gone from a relative backbencher who sells herself as a moderate to voters in Upstate New York, to a theatrical partisan grandstanding for President Donald Trump and a top target of ire from Democrats.
But according to Politico, at least some of her voters appear turned off by her new stance.
"While Stefanik once able to strike a delicate balance between her Republican identity and her positions on issues like climate change, some think those earlier convictions are gone, like Phillip Paige, a former Stefanik backer and a member of SUNY Potsdam’s College Republicans," wrote Politico's Anna Gronewald. "A native of the 21st district’s Madrid, New York, Paige said he started to lose faith in Stefanik when she began supporting Trump as the party’s nominee in 2016. Paige supported John Kasich’s candidacy in that election. 'A lot of her boots-on-the-ground young Republican crowd has really become quite disillusioned,' he said. 'We saw her as what we thought the future of the Republican Party was and that really has been disproven. Unless, maybe the future of the Republican party is Donald Trump.'"
DOJ employees urged to revolt against Bill Barr for throwing IG report ‘in the trash’ to defend Trump
On MSNBC's "AM Joy," former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne excoriated Attorney General William Barr for his partisan suppression of the inspector general's conclusions about the FBI's Russia investigation.
"Here's the problem. The inspector general has already found that the — the investigation was not motivated in the way that Bill Barr is saying it is, and he's directly taking all the work of all the people and he's throwing it in the trash," said Alksne. "And he's added this other layer of an investigation and now he's broken all the rules, because one of the rules in an investigation is you don't talk about it in the middle, and he's done that. And it's a very threatening thing to the person who did the initial investigation, and it's also a way of putting his thumb on the scale with the guy who's doing the followup investigation, [U.S. Attorney John] Durham. He was talked into issuing a press release that was completely improper."