US & Canada

Texas Republicans fail to oust Muslim official over religion

Shahid Shafi Image copyright CBS
Image caption Shahid Shafi is a trauma surgeon, city councilman, and Republican party delegate

A Republican county official in Texas has survived a vote to oust him after several local party members took issue with his Muslim religion.

The motion to remove Shahid Shafi from his position as vice chairman of the Tarrant County Republican party failed by a vote of 139-49 on Thursday night.

The effort was led by several county Republicans who argued that Dr Shafi was more loyal to Islam than the US.

The movement led to criticism from prominent state Republican officials.

Speaking to reporters after the vote at a church in Fort Worth, Dr Shafi said: "As an immigrant to this great country, I am honoured and privileged to receive the support of my fellow Republicans."

"We were fighting for religious freedom - a founding principle of our nation. And today, we have come out victorious," he declared.

In addition to serving as the Republican vice chairman of Tarrant County - the third largest county in Texas - Dr Shafi is a surgeon and Southlake City Councilman who immigrated to the US nearly 30 years ago.

He reportedly is originally from India, and became a US citizen in 2009.

'Because he is Muslim'

After he was appointed by party officials to his post in July 2018, several of his colleagues took issue with his religion and claimed he had connections with terrorist organisations.

Grand Prairie precinct chairwoman Dorrie O'Brien, who led the effort to oust him, recently reiterated her views in a Facebook post.

"We don't think he's suitable as a practising 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," Mrs O'Brien wrote on 31 December 2018.

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

She also previously slammed her Republican colleagues for not intervening in what she called a "stealth jihad" and "Leftist/Shari'a Zuckerberg-ization of Tarrant County".

Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman Darl Eason, who appointed Dr Shafi to his post, told the Star-Telegram when the vote was scheduled: "It's just outrageous that we are doing this."

"It's disgusting," he added.

Former Tarrant County precinct chair Sara Legvold sat outside of the meeting room during the vote in protest, wearing a burqa which she said was to "represent the Islamisation of our county, our state and our country".

The vote was widely condemned by Texas Republican, including Governor Greg Abbott, Senator Ted Cruz and Republican Land Commissioner George P Bush.

"Religious freedom is at the core of who we are as a nation and state," Gov Abbott said in a statement on Wednesday, "and attacks on Dr Shafi because of his faith are contrary to this guiding principle."

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