On Thursday evening, members of the Tarrant County, Texas, Republican Party (TCRP) will vote on whether to give Vice Chair Shaid Shafi the boot. The problem some TCRP members have with Shafi: He's Muslim.
Shafi entered the United States in 1990 and was naturalized in 2009. He is currently a member of the Southlake (Texas) City Council and makes a living as a trauma surgeon. He wrote in an open letter that he identifies as a Republican because he believes in "small government, lower taxes, individual responsibility, religious freedom, school choice, energy independence, rule of law, and secure borders." Shafi also spoke to his own personal record as a council member, reminding others that he voted for lower property taxes in his area.
Due to his experience and commitment, TCRP Chairman Darl Easton appointed Shafi to serve as vice chair in July. However, members like precinct chair Dorrie O'Brien strongly support his ousting over concerns that he supports Islam, Islamic law, or "Islamic terror groups." O'Brien, who has said that her faction has enough votes to prevail, claims that her concerns have nothing to do with Shafi's religion.
Shafi addressed these concerns in his open letter, saying that he's never been associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), or any terrorist organization. Furthermore, he specifically listed support for "American Laws for American Courts" as well as "Israel's right to exist."
Since the TCRP's internal drama became public, prominent Republican figures and conservative outlets have disavowed the recall efforts.
"Discrimination against Dr. Shafi [because] he's Muslim is wrong," tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz. "The Constitution prohibits any religious test for public office [and] the First Amendment protects religious liberty for every faith. The Party of Lincoln should welcome everybody [and] celebrate Liberty."
"Religious freedom is at the core of who we are as a nation and state and attacks on Dr. Shafi because of his faith are contrary to this guiding principle," wrote Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, in a statement.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush also became involved, tweeting, "I urge the Tarrant County GOP to stop this attempt to remove a hardworking county party official based on religious beliefs. We must move towards a more inclusive Republican Party and stop tearing down our own if we are to keep Texas red."
Easton has also criticized the faction against Shafi, saying, "Most of them already have a prejudice against Muslims, and a lot of that comes from the attack on 9/11 and the Shariah law they claim all Muslims must obey." Even though Shafi is an active member of his party, Easton observed, his efforts on behalf of the GOP have gone unrecognized by those seeking to remove him.
Despite the faction against Shafi and Thursday's looming vote, elected Republican officials in the county signed a document in December saying they both support religious liberty and the chairman's appointments. The TCRP shared the affirmation on their Facebook page.
Update: The move to recall Shahid Shafi failed a 49-139 vote.