Texan Republicans to vote on ousting Muslim county party leader

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – Republicans in and around Forth Worth, Texas, will vote on Thursday on whether to oust a vice chairman of the county party from his post because he is a Muslim, a move opposed by Republican elected officials in the state.

The Tarrant County Republican Party’s executive committee voted to make Shahid Shafi, a trauma surgeon, a vice chairman last July in a nearly unanimous vote, according Jeremy Bradford, the county party’s executive director.

A dissenter on the committee, Dorrie O’Brien, filed a motion to remove him, which is expected to be voted on at a committee meeting on Thursday evening.

“At the end of the day, it’s a fear that they have, in my opinion unfounded, of Muslims,” Bradford said in a telephone interview, referring to O’Brien and what he described as a small group of her supporters.

O’Brien, a Tarrant County precinct chairwoman, has posted lengthy comments on social media complaining about Shafi because he is a Muslim, a religion she regards as dangerous, and possibly a stealth Democrat.

She says Islam is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, while her critics note that the Constitution forbids religious discrimination.

“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.,” O’Brien wrote in a post in December.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz are among elected Republicans who have condemned O’Brien’s effort.

O’Brien did not return a request for comment.

Shafi grew up in his native Pakistan before moving to the United States in 1990 to train as a surgeon. In 2009 he became a U.S. citizen and later was elected to the Southlake city council. In a November open letter, Shafi called O’Brien’s religious discrimination “un-American” and denied her accusations that he was secretly a Democrat or sought to supplant U.S. law with Islamic law.

“We need to build trust by breaking bread with our neighbors who don’t look like us or talk with an accent,” he wrote. “Regardless of when we arrived on this precious soil, we are all Americans, with equal rights and responsibilities.”

The party’s executive committee has 269 voting members, Bradford said. While some who voted for Shafi last year now support the motion to oust Shafi, the majority continue to support him, Bradford said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas)