Muslim GOP official: I've always felt welcome

A proposal to remove a Texas county GOP leader Shahid Shafi from his post because he is Muslim is being met with forceful opposition from Republicans at the county, state and national level.

Posted: Jan 11, 2019 12:08 AM
Updated: Jan 11, 2019 12:18 AM

A proposal to remove a Texas county GOP leader from his post because he is Muslim is being met with forceful opposition from Republicans on the county, state and national level, ahead of a vote this week.

The Tarrant County Republican Party is scheduled to decide Thursday whether to keep Shahid Shafi, who was appointed vice chairman of the county GOP in July. His ratification received near unanimous support from the group's executive committee.

The lone dissenter, however, created a small group that brought forth a motion to oust Shafi, Jeremy Bradford, executive director of the Tarrant County GOP, told CNN. Tarrant County includes the city of Forth Worth.

Sources within the party say the dissenter is Dorrie O'Brien, who has been outspoken on Facebook about her concerns about Shafi's religion.

"We don't think he's suitable as a practicing Muslim to be vice chair because he'd be the representative for ALL Republicans in Tarrant County, and not ALL Republicans in Tarrant County think Islam is safe or acceptable in the U.S., in Tarrant County, and in the TCGOP, and there are big questions surrounding exactly where Dr. Shafi's loyalties lie, vis a vis Democrat and Republican policies," O'Brien said on Facebook.

CNN reached out to O'Brien, but she declined to comment.

Tarrant County GOP Chairman Darl Easton said he appointed Shafi to the position after observing his work on an outreach committee and a campaign committee.

"When it came time to appoint vice chairs, it was kind of an automatic choice," Easton said.

Easton says that while religion is a vital factor to some members of the party, it is not to him.

"I'm standing by him," Easton said. "I have no doubt what his allegiance is to, he's not a radical jihadist or terrorist. I think he's more dedicated to the party than many of the ones who are asking for his resignation."

Shafi, a father, trauma surgeon, US citizen, and immigrant from India, said the group calling for his ouster is working against America's values and the Republican party.

"What we cannot do, and we don't do, is discriminate against a specific person based on their religion, caste, creed, color, ethnicity or country of origin. Our party has very specific rules that prohibit religious discrimination. Our country has specific rules and our constitution prohibits it," Shafi told CNN in December. "So when this controversy arose because of a small number of people at the fringes of our party, it's been really very -- they're doing a disservice to our party."

Support for Shafi within the Republican party has been widespread.

"Religious freedom is at the core of who we are as a nation and state," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement, according to the Dallas Morning News. "And attacks on Dr. Shafi because of his faith are contrary to this guiding principle."

Senator Ted Cruz tweeted his support in December.

"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 and celebrate liberty."

George P. Bush, grandson of George H.W. Bush and Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, encouraged people to vote to keep Shafi.

"I again urge my friends in the Tarrant County Republican Party to do the right thing and vote to support Shahid Shafi as vice chairman of the party. Religious litmus tests are wrong—whether they occur in my party or whether its Democratic Senators who have questioned Catholic judges' ability to be unbiased. What matters is a person's character, judgment and values. Shahid Shafi has all three."

In an open letter, Shafi said he is confident in the Tarrant County GOP's "fundamental sense of fairness" and called on those in doubt to "build trust by breaking bread with our neighbors who don't look like us or talk with an accent."

"A nation divided by hate and fear makes us weaker, and our enemies stronger," he wrote. "It is through inclusion, and not exclusion, that we will be able to build strong communities, where neighbors trust and protect each other, and our enemies cannot find refuge."

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