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Texas GOP leader who is Muslim declares victory over bigotry

Dr. Shahid Shafi addresses the state Republican executive committee on Dec. 1, 2018, in Texas. (AP Photo)

(RNS) — Dr. Shahid Shafi, a trauma surgeon who is Muslim, declared victory over bigotry and a win for religious freedom after fellow Republicans in Texas’ most conservative urban county voted 139-49 with 10 abstentions to retain him in a key leadership position.

The much-anticipated vote Thursday night (Jan. 10) by the Tarrant County GOP came during a two-hour, closed-door meeting by precinct chairs at a church in the Fort Worth suburb of Richland Hills.

“Tonight, the torch of liberty burns brighter. Today, my faith in our party and our country has been reaffirmed,” said Shafi, who will remain one of the county party’s two regional vice chairs, in a statement on Facebook. “My fellow Republicans have demonstrated that we remain the party of Lincoln and Reagan, which is open to all Americans, regardless of their religion, caste, creed, color, ethnicity or country of origin.”

For months, a political civil war had raged within the Tarrant County GOP, pitting Republicans who welcomed Shafi and the diversity he brought to the local party against those who characterized any follower of Islam as a soldier in a “stealth jihad.”

Even before Shafi was appointed to his post in July, Dorrie O’Brien, a precinct chair who cast the original lone vote against him, had warned of the supposed dangers of Islam. She argued that the faith is “spread now far more by lies, deception and concocted perception than it is by physical jihad.”

“This is where we are in Tarrant County today,” O’Brien wrote in one post in November. “Divided by those who won’t see the stealth jihad and by those who do. Those who’ve drunk the Islamic Kool-Aid and those who haven’t.”

O’Brien’s opposition, supported by a vocal minority in the county, forced the party to schedule last night’s special vote to retain or dismiss Shafi.

The deluge of national media attention that followed prompted the state-level party hierarchy and high-profile leaders such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to come to Shafi’s defense.

“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 on the eve of the county party’s vote.

In recent weeks, Republican activists who opposed Shafi had expanded their list of targets to include officials such as Lisa Grimaldi Abdulkareem, a nondenominational Christian who is married to a Muslim.

“I am thrilled to see the party come together and make it clear that we believe in religious freedom,” Abdulkareem, the Tarrant County GOP’s vice chair for precinct recruitment and volunteers, told Religion News Service after Thursday night’s vote. “I’m ready to move on and work on real issues.”

Shafi, a two-term city councilman in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Southlake, said the dispute had been difficult on him and his family.

“It would have been easier to quit, but I stayed on to fight because I believe the issue was far larger than retaining the title of vice chair,” Shafi said. “We were fighting for religious freedom, a founding principle of our nation.

“With today’s vote, we have sent a clear message to the entire nation that we continue to believe that all men are created equal,” he added. “With today’s vote, we have taken a stand against bigotry … against religious discrimination, and to protect our Constitution and the freedoms offered by our country.”

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Bobby Ross Jr.

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  • Re: “In recent weeks, Republican activists who opposed Shafi had expanded their list of targets to include officials such as Lisa Grimaldi Abdulkareem, a nondenominational Christian who is married to a Muslim.” 

    The proclivity of militant religionists to “expand” their religionistic crusades, is precisely why I keep telling people — including fervent religious believers — that trying to establish and enforce a “national religion” is a bad idea. Simply put, it won’t be enough, for these folk, for all Americans to convert to Christianity. It will then become a matter of ensuring all Americans are the right “kind” of Christian. And once everyone has become the “right kind” of Christian (or been forced out of the country), those folk will then argue over further matters of more specific doctrinal compliance. 

    It’s the sort of religio-socio-political death spiral that led e.g. to the Protectorate in England following the English Civil War. Lots of people who think they’d thrive in a religiofascist state, would certainly end up regretting having created it — because, simply put, such efforts can never end well. Sectarian conflict is an inevitable result … and it’s always disastrous. 

    The problem is, it’s impossible to convince most of them this, up front. They just don’t buy it. Even most Christians who aren’t, themselves, fervently in support of a Christofascist regime, don’t see how they could end up being hurt under such arrangements. I’m a Christian, each of them thinks, so how could it harm me? That’s why they let Christofascists run amok. Couple this with the apparent sincerity and piety of a lot of Christofascists, and there’s a lot of accommodation going on that’s actually detrimental to the folks who’re convinced they couldn’t end up being victims. 

    They will be — but they don’t know it, nor do they care. 

  • It is really hard to imagine a man smart enough to be a surgeon not knowing who Republicans are, from where the energy is tapped to elect them nationally and what sort of energy it actually is. He doesn’t know who installed Trump, Cruz and Abbott or why those guys win elections in Texas?

  • Odd, isn’t it, that when the Republicans approve a Muslim for a leadership, the usual suspects write things like “It is really hard to imagine a man smart enough to be a surgeon not knowing who Republicans are ….”?

    You would think someone who can read would realize he’s being absurd.

  • Did you actually READ the article?

    “It will then become a matter of ensuring all Americans are the right “kind” of Christian.”

    Apparently not.

  • Good for him. However, his comments are odd in light of what his party revealed in the debate his election caused. Interesting that he doesn’t have critical thinking skills. But hopefully this is sign of things to come and in the future his statements will actually be true reality.

  • Did you actually READ his comment?
    Apparently not.

    His wasn’t a comment about the article, but about folks such as Dorrie O’Brian, mentioned and quoted in the article.

    Stay awake.

  • The fact a vote was forced at all should give Dr. Shafi pause for thought about the kind of party he is in. It’s unlikely those who called for the vote will just give up and leave him alone.

  • Dr. Shafi is correct in a narrow sense. This vote was a rejection of Islamophobia.

    But, the GOP has a nationwide problem with anti-Islam officials.
    https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2018/04/17/utah-is-the-only-state-where-republican-officials-havent-engaged-in-anti-muslim-rhetoric-report-finds/

    Nor did the bigotry erode in the just-completed election.
    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/republicans-have-an-anti-muslim-problem

    Then there’s the re-election of King in Iowa, who thinks there’s nothing really amiss with white supremacy.
    https://www.axios.com/tim-scott-blasts-republican-silence-on-steve-king-fbbdb9c4-4a45-4be3-b792-1f4397f35df0.html

  • So, you don’t believe the article.

    Like a modern-day Joe McCarthy, you think that there an anti-Muslim under every Republican bed.

  • The fact that there was a vote should tell Dr. Shafi that, unlike the Democrats who nuked Bernie Sanders’ candidacy behind the scenes with dirty tricks and dirtier money, the Republicans actually practice democracy.

    The notion that “It’s unlikely those who called for the vote will just give up and leave him alone.” reflects either mind-reading or an unsupported bias.

  • When you misread someone else’s comment, you are stuck with your misread for eternity and will argue it until Hell freezes over around you.

  • he didn’t say that, he spoke about issues in the Republican party beyond Ft Worth, TX.

    But you knew that, however you can’t help yourself in your ridiculous comments to everyone in a thread. You stalk threads, I guess I’m stalking you, yes.

  • If you have to vote for/against somebody due to their religion — then the GOP should just make it a party platform rule that there is a religious test to become a GOP official.

    If they were honest, they should formally announce GOP leaders must be Christians….and they can take a vote to remove non-Christians from leadership positions. Disgraceful, but at least an earnest position.

  • Yes, he decided to take a shot at the Republican Party.

    Of course, that is all one would expect from him – and you.

    So, are you ready to accept Wicca as a mainline religion?

  • ““We were fighting for religious freedom, a founding principle of our nation.” No, try proselytizing for Muhammed. It isn’t religious freedom, it isn’t anti-bigotry – as the propaganda implies – it is for political reasons, politics. They may get some votes from islam

  • LMAO.

    All one expects from you is bitter bleats.

    Working toward having to gin up yet another profile?

  • I am sure he can speak for himself.

    Speaking of stalking, I believe this may be the 12th of yours I have responded to today in at least five different discussions.

  • No, I cited Republican officials and candidates expressing bigotry of several flavors. You should talk to them. They’re ruining your idea of current Republicans and where more than isolated members have been going for a few decades.

  • I would agree that the Democrats treatment of Sanders was terrible. The US isn’t a democracy. It is somewhere between an oligarchy and a kleptocracy.

  • It is a republic.

    Unfortunately the party system has done and continues to do incredible damage to its democratic aspects.

  • This is a surgeon — probably wealthy, voting in his own interest — on the side of wealth, everything else lagging far behind.

  • Very possibly. Those are the ones, after all, who would be yabbering about the Party of Lincoln long after its focus shifted to tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.

  • Not much of a rebuttal. Demanding legal penalties for being part of a given religion is precisely what religious freedom isn’t.

  • It is all about the dictates of the koran that dictate death for all infidels plus stealing all their property. Mohammed was a spice trader before he became a raider. Said spices in those days were used routinely to cover body and building stench. Now we have the stench of lslam. Ironic!

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