The first time Shahid Shafi ran for a seat on the city council in Southlake, Tex., in 2011, advisers assured him a Muslim in post-9/11 America who spoke with an accent and emigrated from Pakistan would never win an election in Texas.
It’s a story that Shafi, a Republican trauma surgeon, likes to tell because he didn’t believe them. He won the Southlake City Council seat on his second try, in 2014, has since served as a delegate to multiple Texas GOP conventions and, in July, was appointed vice chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, located in Fort Worth.
But that’s when his religion somehow became a problem again — in the eyes of some Republican colleagues.
Shafi hadn’t held the position in the North Texas county for more than a couple of days before a precinct chairwoman urged Darl Easton, chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, to “reconsider” appointing Shafi to a leadership role, a request that was soon echoed by several other precinct chairs.
“The only reason she had was because he was a Muslim,” Easton told The Washington Post. “That was the only reason she gave.”
Since then, that precinct chairwoman, Dorrie O’Brien, and a small group of her supporters have put forth a formal motion to remove Shafi as vice chairman because of his religion, a motion that is slated for a vote Jan. 10. To Easton, who opposes the measure, the move is an embarrassment to the Republican Party. And to Shafi, it amounts to exactly what he believed did not exist in the United States when he arrived here 28 years ago: a religious test.
Over the past week, the movement to oust Shafi has drawn loud condemnation from Texas GOP leaders, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush and House Speaker Joe Straus. On Saturday, the Texas GOP Executive Committee passed a formal resolution reaffirming the GOP’s commitment to religious freedom and seeking to distance the party from the xenophobia that it fears the motion against Shafi may embolden. In Texas, it would not be the first time Republicans have tried to block Muslims from participating in GOP leadership roles.