Texas Republicans voted to keep a GOP county official in his position after a small group raised a ruckus over his Muslim religious beliefs.
The Tarrant County Republican Party overwhelming voted to keep Dr. Shahid Shafi as the party’s vice chair Thursday. Shafi, a trauma surgeon and Southlake city councilman, was targeted by a small group of Republicans – led by precinct chairman Dorrie O’Brien – who contended his religious beliefs are not in line with those he represents in the county.
But the party rejected calls to oust him from the position Thursday in a 139-49 vote.
“As an immigrant to this great country, I am honored and privileged to receive the support of my fellow Republicans,” Shafi said following the vote, according to The Texas Tribune. “We need to learn to trust each other so we can create a more perfect union every day.”
“We need to learn to trust each other so we can create a more perfect union every day.”
Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Darl Easton said the vote “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.”
“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,” he said in a statement.
Originally from India and Pakistan, Shafi became a U.S. citizen in 2009 and has been in the vice chairmanship position since July. He’s worked for the party, however, for about 10 years.
O’Brien is credited with leading the effort against Shafi — often posting about her opposition to his appointment on social media.
“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,” O’Brien wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.
Although she didn’t vote at the meeting, Tarrant County precinct chair Sara Legvold sat outside wearing a burqa to “represent the Islamization of our county, our state and our country,” The Texas Tribune reported.
“You already see it in the workplace where Muslims demand they’re able to wear their hijab and demand they get a prayer room,” Legvold said. “When was the last time a Christian was allowed to have a separate place to say their prayers?”
Despite the push from some in the county party, Shafi got support from more prominent Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
“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,” Abbott said in a statement.
“I salute the Tarrant County Republican Party for re-affirming Shahid Shafi,” Bush said in a tweet Thursday night. “He is a good man who is doing a good job. And we should never allow religious bigotry to play any party in our politics.”
Cruz had previously decried the “discrimination” against Shafi.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.