For the first time in history, Muslims are now a majority in a U.S. city council.
The city is Hamtramck, an enclave of Detroit, Michigan, with a population of 22,423.
Cathaleen Chan reports for Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 8, 2015, that Hamtramck made history when it became what is likely the first city in America to elect a Muslim-majority city council.
Historically Polish, Hamtramck voted three Muslims onto the six-member city council, one of whom was an incumbent Muslim council member not up for reelection this year. This means that the council now has a two-thirds Muslim majority — 4 out of 6. The mayor, Karen Majewski, is Polish.
According to Bill Meyer, a Hamtramck community leader who isn’t Muslim, the election was a landslide: “The election was far from close, with the three Muslim winners each gaining over 1,000 votes, while the other three candidates garnered less than 700 votes each.” Meyer says that the incumbent Muslim councilman has accomplished a lot for the city, bringing “stability, security and sobriety while lessening the amount of drugs and crime in the city.”
In the early 20th century, Polish immigrants flocked to Hamtramck because of a Dodge Brothers plant built in 1914. By the 1970s, Polish-Catholics made up 90% of the city. But Hamtramck’s Muslim population has been steadily growing, thanks to heightened immigration. As the Poles moved to the suburbs, Asian and Arab immigrants, mainly from Bangladesh and Yemen, began to settle in Hamtramck. Today it is estimated that half of Hamtramck is Muslim.
University of Michigan-Dearborn professor Sally Howell, however, maintains that in 2013, Muslims already had become the majority of Hamtramck’s population, making the city the first in the U.S. to have a Muslim majority. Howell told Washington Post, “The growth is taking place in these Muslim communities, and they are transforming the city scape. It’s become much more visible in the last 15 years.”
The latest US Census surveys found that Hamtramck is now 24% Arab (mostly Yemeni), 19% black, 15% Bangladeshi, 12% Polish, and 6% Yugoslavian. Out of the four new Muslim council members, three are Bangladeshi and one is Yemeni.
Getting to a Muslim majority wasn’t easy. In the past, Muslim candidates reportedly had been harassed, accused of terrorism, and some Bangladeshi voters were asked to show proof of citizenship by poll workers.
In 2004, Hamtramck garnered heavy attention when the city council allowed a mosque to broadcast its call to prayer from loudspeakers. Opponents claimed it was an intrusion of Islam into their lives. At that point, only one city council member was Muslim.
One of the winners Tuesday is Saad Almasmari, a 28-year-old student who received the highest percentage of votes – 22%. He moved to the US in 2009 and two years later, he became a US citizen. Almasmari said that “Although we are Muslims, it doesn’t have anything to do with serving the community. It’s not about religion. It’s not about Muslim unity. We are planning to work for everyone.”
It will be interesting to see if the 4 Muslim members of Hamtramck’s city council will advocate sharia law for the city.
H/t FOTM’s MomOfIV
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