FORT WORTH, Texas — Republicans in one of the most populous counties in Texas will decide this week if they should remove a party vice chairman who is Muslim following allegations he has denied that suggest he prefers Islamic over U.S. law and opposes the GOP's pro-Israel stance.
Infighting over Shahid Shafi has deterred some potential donors from giving to the Tarrant County Republican Party's main fundraiser ahead of the vote set for Thursday, one party leader told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Some have even speculated that the ouster of Shafi could drain fundraising efforts and jeopardize the party's 2020 campaign.
"This (Shafi) story has gained national attention and has put the party in a bad light, all thanks to the actions of a few," said William Busby, a former precinct chairman and leader for the Tarrant County Republican Party. "Corporate donors, the big donors, don't want to be associated with a party that's going in the direction of excluding people based upon their religious beliefs."
Shafi, a surgeon and city council member in a Fort Worth suburb, has repudiated the allegations that he favors Shariah law, insisting he supports the American court system. Shafi, who was born in India and raised in Pakistan, became a U.S. citizen in 2009.
Busby said the display of bigotry gives Democrats "more ammo to use in 2020."
Precinct Chairman Dorrie O'Brien led the call to reconsider Shafi's appointment, an issue that gained traction with some party members after Tarrant County turned blue in the U.S. Senate race in November. They say the issue isn't about religion but whether Shafi is connected to terrorist organizations, which he has also denied.
Many top Texas Republicans including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Commissioner George P. Bush have condemned the efforts to oust Shafi. The State Republican Executive Committee in Austin responded by passing a resolution recently that stressed Republican members across Texas have the "freedom to practice all faiths."
"I heard from a few people that if Shafi is removed they'll resign," said Brian Bledsoe, a Tarrant County GOP precinct chairman. "I don't know how serious they were about it, though. Regardless of the outcome, hopefully this Thursday will be the end of all of this."