Quantcast
Connect with us

In Texas’ third largest county, there’s a campaign to oust the local GOP’s vice-chair because he’s Muslim

Published

on

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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?”

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

George Conway annihilates Trump’s claim that Twitter censors him

Published

on

On Wednesday, following Trump's virtually incomprehensible rant on Fox Business about how Twitter is secretly stifling his content, conservative lawyer George Conway posted a scathing rebuke of his behavior:

https://twitter.com/gtconway3d/status/1143868020424617989?s=21

George Conway, the husband of Trump's former campaign manager and counselor Kellyanne Conway, has been a frequent and vocal critic of the president's behavior.

Republicans have increasingly scapegoated an imagined political conspiracy of social media companies for every problem that they have online, claiming that there is a plot to censor or "shadow ban" conservative content.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

This is how Florida Republicans plan to hand the election to Trump in 2020

Published

on

In 2018, voters in Florida passed Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to ex-felons. The measure passed 65 to 35 percent.

Now, Florida Governor and major Trump ally Ron DeSantis is expected to blunt the impact of the measure by approving a bill that would require ex-felons to have paid off all fees connected to their sentence before voting. That means Donald Trump might get a major boost in 2020, reports the Daily Beast.

SB 7066 requires ex-felons to pay off all financial obligations from their sentencing or get them excused by a judge.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Dear NeverTrumpers: Please quit lecturing actual Democrats about how to win

Published

on

As I write this, we are just hours away from the first debate of the presidential primary season. It's hard to believe that four years have passed since the last round of primary debates. It feels like 40. But here we are, getting ready to embark on yet another presidential campaign featuring Donald Trump. Everyone on the planet has advice for the Democratic candidates about what they need to do to beat him. It may be the most annoying conversation in all of politics, and that's saying something.

The pundits are all dully blathering on about "lanes" again, extending the horse race metaphor to ridiculous lengths, as they did in the GOP primaries in 2016. So far they've declared the lanes to be "establishment," "insurgent," "youth," "black vote" and "working class." And yes, they are meaningless, since the person who wins the nomination will have to take up big parts of all these "lanes" and more. But it makes it easy for pundits and analysts to drone on endlessly about polling, despite the fact that there is very little chance this campaign will end up going the way they predict.

Continue Reading
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

I need your help.

The 2020 election needs you. There are 18 months until the election, and the Supreme Court is on the line. I'm trying to add journalists to do more exclusive reports. Let me get rid of the ads for you, and put your support toward 100% progressive reporting. Want to ensure your voice is heard? Join me and restore the power of hard-hitting progressive journalism.

HELP TAKE BACK AMERICA
close-link