Local Texas GOP approves Muslim vice chairman after controversy

/ CBS/AP

Republicans in one of the most populous counties in Texas have voted to support a Muslim doctor as a party vice chairman following infighting over some members' claims about his beliefs.

The executive committee of the Tarrant County Republican Party voted late Thursday to keep Shahid Shafi in office. Shafi is a surgeon and City Council member in suburban Fort Worth. Several Republican Party leaders supported him staying in the position and condemned the effort to unseat him. George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner and the son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, tweeted that he is urging the Republican Party "to do the right thing and vote to support Shahid Shafi." "Religious litmus tests are wrong–whether they occur in my party or whether its Democratic Senators," he wrote.

A party precinct chairwoman had led the call to oust Shafi on claims that he could be more loyal to Islamic law or connected to a terrorist group.

"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," Dorrie O'Brien, a member of the GOP's executive committee, said on Facebook.

Shafi, in an open letter, said he believes in the county GOP's "fundamental sense of fairness." "A nation divided by hate and fear makes us weaker, and our enemies stronger," he wrote. "It is through inclusion, and not exclusion, that we will be able to build strong communities, where neighbors trust and protect each other, and our enemies cannot find refuge."

Former county GOP leader William Busby earlier told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that some large corporate donors "don't want to be associated with a party that's going in the direction of excluding people based upon their religious beliefs."

Holly Rosenkrantz contributed reporting

First published on January 11, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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