Texas Repub­li­cans vote against oust­ing Mus­lim mem­ber

The Prince George Citizen - - Religion -

FORT WORTH, Texas — Repub­li­cans in one of the most pop­u­lous coun­ties in Texas voted Thurs­day to keep a Mus­lim doc­tor as their party vice chair­man fol­low­ing in­fight­ing over some mem­bers’ claims about his be­liefs.

The ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the Tar­rant County Repub­li­can Party voted 139-49 to re­ject the ef­fort to purge Shahid Shafi, a sur­geon and City Coun­cil mem­ber in sub­ur­ban Fort Worth.

“This vote reaf­firms the com­mit­ment by a ma­jor­ity of Tar­rant County Repub­li­cans to our core val­ues and moral com­pass, a demon­stra­tion of our al­le­giance to the Texas Repub­li­can Party Plat­form and the Con­sti­tu­tions of the United States and Texas, which strictly pro­hibit re­li­gious and racial dis­crim­i­na­tion of any kind,” Tar­rant County Repub­li­can Party Chair Darl Eas­ton said in a writ­ten state­ment.

“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,” ac­cord­ing to the state­ment.

“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.”

The Fort Worth Star-Tele­gram re­ported at least one precinct chair, Ar­ling­ton Repub­li­can Dale At­te­bery, was said have to tossed his ID at the lec­turn af­ter the vote. Eas­ton said he ac­cepted that as At­te­bery’s res­ig­na­tion.

Shafi told re­porters that his faith in Tar­rant County Repub­li­cans had been reaf­firmed.

“As we strug­gled through the last few months, it would have been easy for me to quit. But I stayed on to fight,” he said. “We were fight­ing for re­li­gious free­dom ... and to­day we have come out vic­to­ri­ous.”

The Thurs­day vote re­sult took a stand “against big­otry of all kinds,” he said. “Our union is a lit­tle more per­fect to­day.”

A party precinct chair­woman, Dor­rie O’Brien, had led the call to oust Shafi on claims that he may be more loyal to Is­lamic law or con­nected to a ter­ror­ist group. Shafi de­nied both claims and other Repub­li­cans have called them big­oted.

“Re­li­gious free­dom is at the core of who we are as a na­tion and state,” Gov. Greg Ab­bott said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day, “and at­tacks on Dr. Shafi be­cause of his faith are con­trary to this guid­ing prin­ci­ple.”

Other top Repub­li­cans, such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Com­mis­sioner Ge­orge P. Bush, also had con­demned the ef­fort to oust him.

Cruz tweeted at one point that dis­crim­i­nat­ing against Shafi be­cause of his re­li­gion was “wrong.” The First Amend­ment pro­tects re­li­gious lib­erty for ev­ery faith, Cruz said on Twit­ter.

For­mer Tar­rant County GOP leader Wil­liam Busby ear­lier told the Fort Worth Star-Tele­gram that some large cor­po­rate donors “don’t want to be as­so­ci­ated with a party that’s go­ing in the di­rec­tion of ex­clud­ing peo­ple based upon their re­li­gious be­liefs.”

Shafi is one of two party vice chair­men and has worked for the party for about 10 years, in­clud­ing as a del­e­gate to the state party con­ven­tion. He’s serv­ing a two-year term as vice chair­man and his elec­tion in July drew one lone dis­sent­ing vote among the ap­prox­i­mately 250 precinct chair­men who voted that day. That lone dis­senter was O’Brien.

A hand­ful of oth­ers have joined her in op­pos­ing Shafi. O’Brien did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Her call to reconsider Shafi’s ap­point­ment gained trac­tion with some party mem­bers af­ter Tar­rant County turned blue in the U.S. Sen­ate race in Novem­ber.

The State Repub­li­can Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee in Austin re­sponded to the move by pass­ing a res­o­lu­tion re­cently that stressed Repub­li­can mem­bers across Texas have the “free­dom to prac­tice all faiths.”

“I heard from a few peo­ple that if Shafi is re­moved they’ll re­sign,” said Brian Bled­soe, a Tar­rant County GOP precinct chair­man.

“I don’t know how se­ri­ous they were about it, though. Re­gard­less of the out­come, hope­fully this Thurs­day will be the end of all of this.”


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