Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Muslim Majority City Council in a US City

A Majority Muslim City Council In a US City 
By Almas Akhtar 

A stone’s throw away from the city of Detroit, in the north-western part of United States is a quite neighborhood nestled among tall trees, rows of old brick houses and many ethnic restaurants. One can see Eastern European ladies walking on the streets wearing long skirts and colorful scarves along with South Asian women dressed in sarees. Hamtramck is quite a multicultural neighborhood with a large immigrant population. Polish, Yemeni, Bosnian, Bangladeshi, Indians and Pakistani are the main ethnic groups. According to an estimate 26 ethnic languages are spoken among the local elementary school children. Hamtramck is a blue colored town with many factory workers residing here. Early in the 1900s many Polish immigrants migrated to this area. 

It was considered a true Polish town where Packzaki Festival was observed with full fanfare and where Pope John Paul 2 visited during his Us trip but by the 1930s a large number of Bengali immigrants moved to this area. Other South Asians followed them mainly because house rentals were very cheap here compared to many other big cities. 

Many of the residents worked in the local General Motors Detroit/ Hamtramck Assembly Plant one of the automakers premier facility. In the early 2000s a Bengali business district formed along Conant Avenue which is popularly called " Little Bengal". By looking at the numerous restaurants and abundant Desi grocery stores one forgets for a minute that this is a city in North America.

After local elections yesterday it is the first time in the city’s history that a Muslim majority will be on the city council. It is also the first time in US history that one of its city will have a Muslim majority city council. The Yemeni and Bengali communities now represent approximately 60% of Hamtramck’s population, according to US Census figures. In addition, there are at least 12 mosques located in this city and in surrounding Detroit neighborhoods.

Like other jurisdictions in Michigan, Hamtramck is under the control of the state of Michigan. In December 2014, Hamtramck emerged from a financial crisis after a state-appointed emergency manager left after 18 months. Currently, a state Transition Advisory Board has control of all financial decisions of the city.

Voters re-elected Abu Musa and Anam Miah. Saad Almasmari was elected for the first time and one more Muslim member’s term was not up for  re-election. So in January 2016 four of the six City Council members of the city of Hamtramck will be of Muslim faith.

Born in Yemen, the 28-year-old Almasmari is a local businessman. He served for six years at the Yemeni American Leadership Association, and is currently a student at Wayne State University.

During his campaign, Almasmari said he wants to add “value to the diversity” in Hamtramck. Moreover, lowering taxes, improving roads and schools are his priorities.
"I think that sends a message not only to Hamtramck but throughout the region that people want their representation in offices," Miah stated.

"My concern is to give the people, everybody, equal opportunity and be fair for everybody," said Musa. 

"We are going to represent everybody. We are going to serve everybody, Christians, Jewish, Muslims, everybody," said Almasmari.