Texas GOP dispute pits religious freedom against claims of ‘stealth jihad’

The appointment of a Muslim doctor to a county’s party leadership has fractured the Republicans of Tarrant County.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

FORT WORTH, Texas  — Lisa Grimaldi Abdulkareem describes herself as a conservative Republican who believes in freedom and prosperity.

“Less bureaucracy, lower taxes and stronger national security — it is simple for me,” said Abdulkareem, the Tarrant County GOP’s vice chair for precinct recruitment and volunteers.

However, some Republican activists in the Lone Star State’s most conservative urban county want Abdulkareem removed from the party’s leadership.

The reason: She’s married to a Muslim.

Abdulkareem, a nondenominational Christian, has been caught up in a political civil war that has raged in the Tarrant County GOP for months, pitting Republicans who see the need for diversity in the party against those who see any follower of Islam as a soldier in a “stealth jihad.”

The skirmish first erupted in July, when the county’s Republican chairman, Darl Easton, named Dr. Shahid Shafi, a two-term city councilman in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Southlake, as one of the party’s two regional vice chairs. Shafi is also a trauma surgeon who is Muslim.

Abdulkareem drew fire for supporting Shafi’s appointment. “I spoke up publicly for Dr. Shafi and was immediately targeted because of my husband’s religious affiliation,” said Abdulkareem. Her husband, Hadi, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who served as a translator for U.S. Marines in his native Iraq from 2006 to 2009.

“They also say I am a Democrat,” said Abdulkareem, “although I have never voted as a Democrat or for one.”

Dorrie O’Brien, a Republican precinct chairwoman in Grand Prairie, leads a group of activists who have pushed for Shafi to be removed based on his religious affiliation.

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Religion News Service is a national wire service whose media partners include The Associated Press, USA Today and the Washington Post.

Author: Bobby Ross Jr.

Award-winning journalist Bobby Ross Jr. has reported from all 50 states and 14 countries in his 28-year professional career.