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Tarrant County GOP vote worrisome

January 19, 2019

Religion should have never been an issue in Shahid Shafi’s role as vice chairman of the Tarrant County GOP in North Texas.

The county party deserves praise for turning back the effort to oust him. That ouster effort reeked not just of religious intolerance but fearmongering. So, good. But it is nonetheless distressing that this even had to come to a vote and distressing also that 49 of 188 of the county’s Republican precinct chairs voted to remove him.

That these views have any following is troubling.

Freedom of religion is a fundamental right. Factions with the belief that freedom of religion applies only to those who believe as they do cannot be allowed to undermine that.

The opposition to the ouster by Republican leaders across the state, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, and the Texas GOP Executive Committee sent a strong message that xenophobia and bigotry will not be tolerated. The question now is whether that message was understood.

Shafi, who emigrated from Pakistan and was naturalized in 2009, is a trauma surgeon and a Southlake city councilman. He completed his medical training in the U.S. and has long been active in Republican politics.

The challenge to his appointment as vice chairman — by the chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, headquartered in Fort Worth — came within days of the announcement. The opposition was led by precinct chairwoman Dorrie O’Brien and was based on false generalizations about his religion.

O’Brien has made multiple public false allegations that Shafi promotes sharia law, is affiliated with terrorist groups and is a fake Republican seeking to infiltrate the party for nefarious reasons.

In a recent Facebook post, she appeared emboldened even though her side lost.

Referring to those who stood in her corner during the vote as the Tarrant 49ers, O’Brien posted, “That 35% represents to me the patriotic, the knowledgeable, the lifeblood of the future.” Adding, “Extrapolating just from that vote, that 35% = 9,000,000 (+/-) people in Texas.”

Everyone should be skeptical about that extrapolation, but it is troubling that this type of bigotry enjoys any following at all. And those 49 votes show it does.

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