Dr. Shahid Shafi will remain in his position as vice-chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party despite a push from a small faction of precinct chairs to remove him from the position because he is a Muslim.
Shafi, a trauma surgeon and Southlake City Council member, said at the conclusion of the vote that the past several months had been hard on him and his family, but he has no hard feelings toward the people who backed the failed motion to recall him and that he was proud to be both an American and a Republican.
“As an immigrant to this great country, I am honored and privileged to receive the support of my fellow Republicans,” Shafi told members of the press late Thursday. “We need to learn to trust each other so we can create a more perfect union everyday.”
Shafi came to the United States in 1991 and became a U.S. citizen in 2009. The attacks on his religion came shortly after Easton appointed him to a leadership role in the county GOP in July. The formal motion to kick him out of the position failed in a 49-139, according to county party spokesman Mike Snyder.
Those who favored Shafi’s removal said he’s unequipped to be vice-chairman because he doesn’t represent all the Republicans of Tarrant County, Texas due to his religion. They further stated Islamic ideologies run counter to the U.S. Constitution- an assertion that many Texas GOP officials called bigoted and Shafi also vehemently denied.
Following the news that Shafi would retain his seat as vice-chairman, Snyder read a prepared statement from Tarrant County GOP Chair Darl Easton which said that the vote reaffirmed Tarrant County Republicans to the state party platform and the U.S. Constitution.
“While tonight’s vote brings an end to this unfortunate episode, it also demonstrates we are a Party that respects the right of those who disagree on an issue to have a seat at the table and their voices heard,” Easton, one of Shafi’s defenders, wrote. “Religious liberty won tonight, and while that makes a great day for the Republican Party of Tarrant County, that victory also serves notice that we have much work to do unifying our party.”
Former Tarrant County precinct chair Sara Legvold did not vote on the motion to recall Shafi, but instead sat outside Thursday’s closed-door meeting wearing a burqua to “represent the Islamization of our county, our state and our country.”
“You already see it in the workplace where Muslims demand they’re able to wear their hijab and demand they get a prayer room,” she said. “When was the last time a Christian was allowed to have a separate place to say their prayers?”
One of the major leaders of the charge to oust Shafi came from precinct chair Dorrie O’ Brien who stated that her support of her position comes not from his religion, but whether he is connected “to Islamic Terror Groups”, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The failed attempt to unseat Shafi drew national attention and condemnation from some of the state’s top Republicans, including Governor Greg Abbott, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Senator Ted Cruz. In a prepared statement after the failed measure, Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey said the party platform of the state clearly supports religious freedom and non-discrimination.
Discrimination against Dr. Shafi b/c he’s Muslim is wrong. The Constitution prohibits any religious test for public office & the First Amendment protects religious liberty for every faith. The Party of Lincoln should welcome everybody & celebrate Liberty. https://t.co/Z16lst3SJN
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 7, 2018
I salute the Tarrant County Republican Party for re-affirming Shahid Shafi as Vice President of the county GOP. He is a good man who is doing a good job. And we should never allow religious bigotry to play any part in our politics.
— George P. Bush (@georgepbush) January 11, 2019
“We look forward to working with all Republicans to fight for lower taxes, quality education, and to continue our booming economy through Republican leadership,” Dickey said.
Even though the movement to reconsider Shafi’s appointment was afoot well ahead of last year’s midterm elections, Thursday’s vote comes just a few months after Tarrant County- considered the most conservative urban county in the country-narrowly flipped in favor of Democrats’ star senatorial candidate Beto O’ Rourke’. In Tarrant County and the surrounding Dallas-Fort Worth region, several Texas Senate and House seats went to Democrats, including the district previously held by Conservative Konni Burton of Colleyville.
Tripp Bryant, a State Republican Executive Committee representative from Senate District 22 which includes part of Tarrant County said it was “appalling” that members of the county party were being divisive over someone’s religion when Republicans in the area had some extremely tight races that were once safe wins. He noted that Republicans Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Ron Wright lost in the area.
“In my personal opinion, they need to pull their heads out of their fourth point of contact and they need to focus on winning elections and stop pointing the finger at Muslims,” Bryant said.
John Seidenstein, a precinct chair nominee, called Thursday’s motion “bullshit.”
“I’m a Jewish precinct chair,” Seidenstein said, “does this mean I’m next?”
Legvold, meanwhile, complained that Shafi’s opponents had been vilified.
“They’ve said nothing but horrible things about us — that we’re bigots and Islamophobes and white supremacists — when we’re just patriots who care for our country,” she said.