REPUB­LI­CANS IN TUR­MOIL

Star-Telegram (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ANNA M. TINS­LEY atins­ley@star-tele­gram.com

Mem­bers of the Tar­rant County GOP hold an in­tense de­bate, some if it be­hind closed doors, on oust­ing a party leader be­cause he’s a Mus­lim.

It is still up in the air whether a small group of Tar­rant County Repub­li­cans will suc­ceed in a con­tro­ver­sial plan to oust a leader of their party be­cause he’s Mus­lim.

Tar­rant Repub­li­can precinct chairs met for nearly four hours Satur­day — and con­sid­ered the is­sue be­hind closed doors for more than an hour — be­fore ad­journ­ing with­out vot­ing on the pro­posal.

“There was no vote on this to­day,” Tar­rant Repub­li­can Chair Darl Eas­ton said af­ter the group ad­journed, not­ing that the is­sue will come up again at a Jan­uary meet­ing. “The for and against speak­ers (never) got ex­hausted.”

This pro­posal came up ear­lier this year but was shelved un­til af­ter the Nov. 6 elec­tion.

It comes at the re­quest of Repub­li­can Dor­rie O’Brien, who pro­posed that the ap­point­ment of Shahid Shafi, named vice chair­man of the lo­cal GOP this sum­mer, be re­con­sid­ered.

As Repub­li­can lead­ers pri­vately dis­cussed the push to re­move Shafi Satur­day, a mes­sage ap­peared on tele­vi­sion screens in the lobby of the Faith Creek Church in Rich­land Hills where those not al­lowed in the meet­ing gath­ered.

“Hey, Dor­rie here,” the mes­sage stated. “If you do ask Shafi to not ac­cept the po­si­tion, please please please do not men­tion any­thing about the MB as part of your rea­son. He will deny it, and mess with your head.

“If he said yes, he’s still mess with your head. These dawah guys are very good. As to the S-T brand­ing the TCGOP as a bunch of big­ots or racists, they don’t need an ex­cuse, they do it al­ready. We’re pa­tri­ots who don’t al­low ji­hadists to play in the fields of the lord.”

Tar­rant County GOP Chair Darl Eas­ton ear­lier this year ap­pointed Shafi to party lead­er­ship and Repub­li­cans ap­proved the nom­i­na­tion.

Sev­eral Repub­li­cans cau­tioned the party — at this cru­cial time, when the lo­cal GOP suf­fered un­ex­pected losses dur­ing the midterm elec­tion and could see more in 2020 — about vot­ing to re­move Shafi.

“If you vote this man off the board to­day, you’re go­ing to send the wrong mes­sage,” Wil­lie Billups, who un­suc­cess­fully chal­lenged U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, for the 33rd Con­gres­sional District, told the crowd. “You’ll have se­condary ef­fects that you’re go­ing to be send­ing to peo­ple around the coun­try and around the state.

“If you do this ladies and gentle­men . . . what mes­sage is be­ing sent to other mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties?”

EAR­LIER THIS YEAR

In Au­gust, a small group of lo­cal Repub­li­cans be­gan call­ing for Shafi’s re­moval from party lead­er­ship.

O’Brien, a Repub­li­can precinct chair from Grand Prairie, and oth­ers have made sev­eral posts on so­cial me­dia call­ing for the re­moval of Shafi.

“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 his 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.”

Many lo­cal Repub­li­cans have con­demned the move.

Eas­ton has spo­ken up for Shafi.

“The lead­er­ship of the Tar­rant County Repub­li­can Party un­equiv­o­cally re­jects the re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion be­ing demon­strated by a few mem­bers of our Party,” Eas­ton said in a state­ment ear­lier this year.

“In­tol­er­ance, based on one’s faith, has no place in the con­struct of Tar­rant County GOP pol­icy, and vi­o­lates the very prin­ci­ples and moral val­ues upon which our Na­tion and the Repub­li­can Party were founded.”

O’Brien shared a state­ment with the Star-Tele­gram be­fore she read it dur­ing the closed part of the meet­ing.

“This is not a case of re­li­gious big­otry, nor a per­sonal at­tack on one man for his pro­tected re­li­gious be­liefs. Is­lam is pri­mar­ily a po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy that has ad­vanced his­tor­i­cally un­der its shield of re­li­gion; we are ques­tion­ing Dr. Shafi’s com­plete ded­i­ca­tion to po­lit­i­cal Is­lam,” she wrote.

“We don’t care about the Is­lamic re­li­gion; it is cer­tainly Dr. Shafi’s choice to be­lieve what­ever he wants,” O’Brien’s state­ment read. “We do care very much about po­lit­i­cal Is­lam with its global ji­had to con­quer na­tions and make them Is­lamic and ruled by Shari’a law, which is com­pletely an­ti­thet­i­cal to our way of life.”

SHAFI RE­SPONSE

Shafi, a sur­geon and South­lake city coun­cil­man, has long re­mained quiet about the ef­fort to re­move him from of­fice.

He led the crowd Satur­day in say­ing the pledge of al­le­giance. And he spoke briefly be­fore a lengthy par­lia­men­tary dis­cus­sion on how this vote would oc­cur.

Shafi said the past few months have been painful for him­self and his fam­ily “be­cause of the at­tacks on us by a small, very small group of peo­ple, be­cause we hap­pen to be Mus­lims.”

He talked about his work as a trauma sur­geon and how he and his team worked to­gether, just as the Repub­li­can Party should, for a greater good.

“When we work to­gether in that spirit, then even if we fail, even if we fail, our na­tion will emerge stronger,” he said.

Many in the group ap­plauded his com­ments, some gave him a stand­ing ova­tion. At least one woman in the crowd gave Shafi an ob­vi­ous thumbs down.

He re­cently re­leased a state­ment about this ef­fort.

“I can’t al­low this small group of closed-minded peo­ple to dam­age our party that I’ve sup­ported and served for sev­eral years,” he wrote. “The call to re­move me from the party of Lin­coln and Rea­gan be­cause of my re­li­gion is wrong for sev­eral rea­sons.

“First, dis­crim­i­na­tion based upon re­li­gion is il­le­gal, im­moral, un­eth­i­cal, un-Amer­i­can, and against the foun­da­tions of our coun­try and the prin­ci­ples of our party,” he wrote. “Sec­ond, it plays right into the false nar­ra­tive of racism and big­otry fo­mented against the Repub­li­can party. Third, it dis­tracts from our core value of re­li­gious lib­erty.”

Shafi de­fended him­self against ac­cu­sa­tions. He said he’s never as­so­ci­ated with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood nor CAIR “nor any ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.” He also said sup­ports Sec­ond Amend­ment rights and Amer­i­can Laws for Amer­i­can Courts. He said he’s never pro­moted Sharia Law. Shafi said he be­came a U.S. ci­ti­zen in 2009.

Bay­lorhealth.edu

Shahid Shafi

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