Republicans in Texas Attempt to Oust Party Leader for Being Muslim

Demonstrators gather for victims of hate crimes and state violence held at Federal Plaza in Chicago on June 22, 2017. Republican leaders are blasting Texas GOP officials for trying to oust a Muslim vice chair. Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Republican officials across the state of Texas are slamming the Tarrant County GOP for their efforts to remove a Muslim official from his leadership post, condemning the action as "disgusting" and "un-American."

Shahid Shafi, an Indian Muslim immigrant, trauma surgeon and city council member, became the vice chair of the local Republican party in July. Since then, several party officials have called for Shafi to be removed from his post on the basis of his religion.

"Dr. Shafi is a practicing, Mosque-attending muslim who claims not to follow sharia law or know what it is," Sara Legvold, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee in Texas, wrote on the "Protect Texas" Facebook page.

"As a practicing muslim that is an overt falsehood. Sharia law is anathema to our Constitution because Islam recognizes no other law but shariah," Legvold added. "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."

Unsupported claims that Shafi is a proponent of Sharia law also came from Dorrie O'Brien, a Republican precinct chair and an active member of ACT for America, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as an anti-Muslim hate group. Sharia law has long been an obsession of the American far-right, who see it as an unspoken global conspiracy.

Shafi denied these accusations in a letter and stated his loyalty to the Republican Party and America. "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," he wrote.

Republicans from across the state have come to Shafi's defense and slammed other GOP officials for their attempts to remove him from his post.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus posted online that "this effort is disgraceful and un-American, and Republicans in Tarrant County should defeat it handily."

Travis County Republican Party Chairman Matt Mackowiak sent a letter to the chair of Tarrant County urging him to reject what he called "outrageous and disgusting" efforts to remove Shafi.

"Our opponents claim the Republican Party is bigoted or racist," Mackowiak told the Dallas News. "The last thing we want to do is take an action that would make that argument for them."

The Republican Party of Texas showed support for Shafi in a recently published resolution and called for Tarrant County GOP members to follow the party's platform of "preserving religious liberty for all Americans.