Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Texas politician Shahid Shafi will retain his seat as vice chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, after a controversial push to remove him from office.
Shafi, a trauma surgeon and city council member for the affluent Fort Worth suburb of Southake, has attracted national attention for pressing American ideals amid what some say have been racially-motivated attacks.
Tarrant County Republicans voted 139-49 late Thursday to keep the Muslim Shafi in his leadership post.
Shafi, who immigrated the United States in 1990 and became a naturalized citizen in 2009, was appointed to the position in July. The move drew outrage from some residents in Tarrant County, one of the United States' most conservative areas.
Precinct Chair Dale Attebery, who pushed a motion to oust Shafi, threw his name badge at the lectern in frustration after the vote. Tarrant County GOP Chair Darl Easton said he accepted that as Attebery's resignation.
Opponents said the push wasn't about religion -- but rather it was about whether Shafi is loyal to Islam and Sharia law, or connected to terror groups.
"As an immigrant to this great country, I am honored and privileged to receive the support of my fellow Republicans," Shafi said after Thursday's vote. "We need to learn to trust each other so we can create a more perfect union everyday."
In a statement posted online, Shafi said he has no animosity towards his detractors, saying they are "simply misguided."
The majority of Thursday's meeting was held behind closed doors at an area church. Most Republicans said it came down to religious freedom.
"This vote reaffirms the commitment by a majority of Tarrant County Republicans to our core values and moral compass ... which strictly prohibit religious and racial discrimination of any kind," Easton said in a statement. "Religious liberty won tonight, and while that makes a great day for the Republican Party of Tarrant County, that victory also serves notice that we have much work to do unifying our party."
Shafi said the vote took a stand "against bigotry of all kinds."
"As we struggled through the last few months, it would have been easy for me to quit. But I stayed on to fight," he said. "We were fighting for religious freedom ... and today we have come out victorious."
Many of Texas' top Republican leaders condemned the effort to remove Shafi, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew to former President George W. Bush.