Gov. Greg Abbott supports Tarrant County GOP leader singled out for being Muslim

A Muslim who is a leader in the Tarrant County Republican Party is getting a lot of support from other GOP leaders after a small group in the party singled him out.

The Tarrant County Republican Party is expected to vote Thursday on whether to remove Vice Chairman Dr. Shahid Shafi from office after one member raised concern about his religion.

Governor Greg Abbott says he supports the surgeon and Southlake City council member and his freedom of religion

Dr. Shahid Shafi has served on the Southlake City council for five years, is president of the Southlake Republican Club and has been involved with the Republican party for 10 years. But it's his position as vice chair of the Tarrant County Republican Party that has upset some party members.

Tarrant County Republicans say when Shafi was appointed to vice chair last summer, most agreed with the appointment. But one vocal member did not: Dorrie O'Brien.

FOX 4 could not reach O'Brien for comment. But in various public Facebook posts, she has talked about her position.

“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,” she wrote online. “And there are big questions surrounding exactly where Dr. Shafi’s loyalties lie."

In response to the effort to remove him based on his religion. Shafi says he has never been affiliated with any terrorist organization.

"I believe that much of the hate against Muslims is driven by a fear of terrorism. I understand these fears and I stand together with Americans of all faiths to protect our Nation,” Shafi said in a statement. “I took the oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and the laws of the United States when I became a citizen in 2009. I did it again each time I was elected to the City Council of Southlake in 2014 and 2017. I have always upheld my oath with honor and dignity."

Others, including the Dallas County Republican Party and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, have expressed support for Shafi.

Abbott cited the U.S. and Texas constitutions protecting freedom of religion.

“Religious freedom is at the core of who we are as a nation and state,” Abbott said. “And attacks on Dr. Shafi because of his faith are contrary to this guiding principle.”

TCU Political Science Professor James Riddlesperger says giving credence to O'Brien's argument with a vote is a bad decision.

"It'd be one thing if you were talking about trying to take a felon off your list or someone accused of a crime or had said something that was untenable at one time or another, but none of that's the case here,” he said. “This is someone who is being restricted in his membership or his leadership in a political party solely based upon his religious affiliation and something that's unseemly inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution, and it's bad politics."

Riddlesperger points out the vote could prove costly for the Tarrant County GOP.

"We're in Tarrant County where Beto O'Rourke actually beat Ted Cruz in the senatorial election in 2018,” he said. “So not just in Tarrant County, but statewide the Republicans have to be attentive to being accepting of different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different religions if they're going to be successful moving forward."

The Tarrant County GOP says they expect to vote on this during executive session Thursday. But the vote could be delayed depending on what actions are taken.