Texas Republicans Will Vote on Whether to Remove Muslim-American From GOP Position Because of His Religion

As the House of Representatives welcomes its first two Muslim congresswomen, Texas Republicans will vote on Thursday over whether to remove Tarrant County Republican party vice-chair Shahid Shafi from his seat because he identifies as a Muslim-American.

The vote comes after some members of the county party put forth a motion to remove Shafi, a Republican trauma surgeon and Southlake City councilman, from his position due to his Islamic beliefs.

Dorrie O'Brien, a precinct chair, expressed fear that Shafi would uphold Islamic law over the U.S. constitution and that he might be related "to Islamic terror groups."

"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 on Facebook. "There are big questions surrounding exactly where Dr. Shafi's loyalties lie, vis a vis Democrat and Republican policies."

Another precinct chair, James Scott Trimm, wrote that he would vote against Shafi, "because I don't believe he shares the ideology of our party platform. Shafi wants to be Vice Chair because he doesn't believe ideology matters!"

A number of prominent Texas Republicans have spoken out in support of Shafi, including Gov. Greg Abbott. "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," he wrote in a statement.

Tarrant County Republican party chairman Darl Easton told Newsweek that tomorrow's vote is still up in the air. "It's who shows up tomorrow," he said. "It's a guess. It's not a mandatory meeting and so many people won't show up. We only have a 25 percent quorum." There are 270 precinct chairs in the county, each chair has one vote.

Easton, who appointed Shafi, said he'd like to see him stay in his current position and that such calls for his resignation reflect poorly on the Republican party. "I proposed a rule change to incorporate the Republican Party of Texas rules which prohibit discrimination, it did not pass," he said.

Shafi, who told Newsweek he didn't want comment until after the vote, explained to The Washington Post that he's used to being discriminated against because of his faith. "This is, unfortunately, not the first time that people or my political opponents have tried to use my religion against me to distract the voters," he said. "And unfortunately, I don't think it will be the last, either."

Texas Republican officials like Senator Ted Cruz, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former House Speaker Joe Straus have publicly supported Shafi and condemned efforts to remove him because of his religious views.

Still, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper told Newsweek that this sort of discrimination is "representative of what's going on with the right wing." The majority of anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals "are coming from the right," he said.

"We've seen an unfortunate spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric and incidents in the Trump-era because he enables people," said Hooper. "At some point, the Republicans have to police their own ranks. Will they be okay with somebody being ejected from their party solely on the basis of faith? If they're okay with that, it says something about them. It's un-American and it's unjust."

Shafi has rejected the support of CAIR, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.