Texas county Re­pub­li­cans vote for Mus­lim to keep party post

Lodi News-Sentinel - - LOCAL/NATION - By Anna M. Tins­ley

RICH­LAND HILLS, Texas— Shahid Shafi, a Mus­lim, re­mains a vice chair­man of the Tar­rant County Repub­li­can Party.

Tar­rant County Re­pub­li­cans voted 139-49 late Thurs­day night— after more than 2 { hours of pri­vate dis­cus­sion among precinct chairs— to keep Shafi, 54, in the lead­er­ship post.

Loud cheers were heard from where precinct chairs were gath­ered be­hind closed doors at the Faith Creek Church in Rich­land Hills shortly be­fore party of­fi­cials an­nounced the vote to the me­dia.

“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 (Thurs­day’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.”

Shafi said the vote af­firmed his be­lief in Tar­rant County Re­pub­li­cans.

“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.”

He said Thurs­day’s vote took a stand “against big­otry of all kinds.”

“Our union is a lit­tle more per­fect today ... and it’s time to put (party) di­vi­sions to rest,” he added.

At least one precinct chair— Ar­ling­ton Repub­li­can Dale At­te­bery, who was in­volved in the ef­fort to oust Shafi— re­port­edly tossed his ID at the lectern after the vote. Eas­ton said he ac­cepted that as At­te­bery’s res­ig­na­tion.

Thurs­day’s meet­ing was much dif­fer­ent than the last Tar­rant GOP ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing in Novem­ber, where mem­bers dis­cussed the pro­posal to re­move Shafi but never took a vote.

This time, pa­per cov­ered the win­dows into the sanc­tu­ary, where Tar­rant Re­pub­li­cans gath­ered for the meet­ing, and law en­forcers stood guard in front of the doors.

The issue of re­li­gious free­dom this time drew national at­ten­tion and around two dozen re­porters and TV crews to cover the vote.

This issue arose about six months ago, after Eas­ton ap­pointed Shafi— a sur­geon and South­lake coun­cil­man— to the vice chair post and fel­low Re­pub­li­cans ap­proved his pro­posal.

Opposition from a small group of lo­cal Re­pub­li­cans be­gan emerg­ing on so­cial me­dia.

“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 Shafi’s 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.”

Then Precinct Chair Dor­rie O’Brien, from Grand Prairie, asked for Shafi’s ap­point­ment to be re­con­sid­ered be­cause he’s Mus­lim.

She and oth­ers have long said this is not about re­li­gion but whether Shafi is loyal to Is­lam and Is­lamic law or con­nected to Is­lamic ter­ror groups.

O’Brien’s mo­tion was de­layed un­til after the Nov. 6 elec­tion, which saw Tar­rant County turn blue in the U.S. Sen­ate race.

Hours of dis­cus­sion be­hind closed doors dur­ing a Novem­ber meet­ing led to no res­o­lu­tion and pushed the issue to Thurs­day night’s meet­ing.

Repub­li­can Party of Texas Chair­man James Dickey said he stands by the Tar­rant County vote Thurs­day night.

“Our plat­form clearly and un­equiv­o­cally ad­vo­cates re­li­gious free­dom and non dis­crim­i­na­tion,” he said in a state­ment. “We have al­ways and will con­tinue to stand for re­li­gious free­dom and for wel­com­ing all who share our val­ues into our party.”

A num­ber of peo­ple who were not precinct chairs crowded into the church’s lobby Thurs­day night.

Among them, two men car­ry­ing signs stat­ing that they are against hate and for Amer­i­can rights.

“It’s time for the Repub­li­can Party to defeat hate,” said Shayan Elahi, a Dal­las at­tor­ney who car­ried a sign that said #No Hate in DFW. “Only they can clean their own house.”

A man from Bexar County held a sign that read “Dr. Shafi is an Amer­i­can con­ser­va­tive.” He de­clined to give his name but said he trav­eled to Thurs­day night’s meet­ing to show sup­port for Shafi.

AMANDA MCCOY/FORT WORTH STAR-TELE­GRAM

Dr. Shahid Shafi ad­dresses the press after a meet­ing of the Tar­rant County Repub­li­can Party re­jected an ef­fort to re­move him as vice-chair­man on Thurs­day in Rich­land Hills, Texas.

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