Hamtramck: First All-Muslim City Government Elected in US State of Michigan

Hamtramck, part of the greater Detroit area, has elected its first Muslim mayor and an all-Muslim city council this month. The newly elected council members will begin their term in January,2022, according to The Detroit Free Press.  The city's population is dominated by immigrants, including 19.7% Bangladeshi, 11% Pakistani, 10.9% Polish and 10% Arab. The rising Islamophobia in America has served as a wake-up call for all Muslim Americans to become more involved in political and civic affairs of the United States. They are now voting in large numbers and starting to win elections across the country. 

L to R: Nayeem Choudhury, Amanda Jaczkowski, Mohammad Hassan,  Mohammad Alsomiri, Khalil Refai and Adam Albarmaki

Nayeem Choudhury is the chairman of the Hamtramck city council while Amanda Jaczkowski, Mohammed Hassan, Mohammed Alsomiri, Khalil Refai and Adam Albarmaki  are city council members. Three of them are of Yemeni descent, two of Bangladeshi descent and one is white.

Yemeni-American Amer Ghalib defeated current Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski by a huge margin.  Ghalib got 68.5% of the vote, while Majewski received 31.5%. 

 "It’s important to remember that although we all happen to be practicing Muslims, we are elected through the processes set forth by the United States, Michigan, Wayne County and Hamtramck," Amanda Jaczkowski, one of the three newly elected Muslims on the council, told the Detroit Free Press. "We will all take an oath ... to protect the Constitution of the United States, and that includes the concept of separation of church and state. I believe strongly in that separation, and although I will bring the Islamic values of honesty and integrity to the table, the policies that I promote and affirm will be what is best for all people of Hamtramck."

Muslim candidates have won seats in local elections in several US states this year. In New York, Bangladeshi American Shahana Hanif became the first Muslim woman on the City Council. Boston, where Muslims number fewer than 80,000, also got its first Muslim member of the City Council. Pakistani American Shama Haider, a former Tenafly councilwoman, become the first Muslim elected to the state Legislature. Another Pakistani American, Muhammad Umar, became the first Muslim elected to the Galloway Township in New Jersey.

In Boston, Cape Verde born Muslim-American Tania Fernandes Anderson won her city council seat by defeating Roy Owens, who had relied heavily on anti-Muslim rhetoric in his campaign. Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Etel Haxhiaj, an Albanian American, became the first Muslim elected to the Worcester City Council. In Pennsylvania,  Pakistani-American Taiba Sultana, won a seat on the Easton City Council. Azrin Awal, a Bangladeshi American immigrant, became the first Muslim elected to the Duluth City Council in Minnesota.  

L to R: Javed Ellahie, Yasmeen Haq, Riaz Haq and Sabina Zafar


There are several Muslims serving on city councils in Silicon Valley, including Javed Ellahie in Monte Sereno and Sabina Zafar in San Ramon. In a historic set of victories last year, six Muslim candidates won elections in Silicon Valley, including the first Muslim member of the Sunnyvale City Council. The new council member, Omar Din, is a 22-year old Pakistani American. Others include: Sam Hindi, Foster City City Council member and mayor; Aziz Akbari, Alameda County Water District board; Hosam Haggag, Santa Clara city clerk; Aliya Chisti, City College of San Francisco board member, and Maimona Afzal, Franklin-McKinley School District board member.   

Recently Elected Silicon Valley Muslim Americans 


Pew Research recently reported that anti-Muslim sentiments in the United States have doubled since 2001 from 25% to 50% of the respondents associating Muslims and Islam with violence. The rising Islamophobia has served as a wake-up call for Muslim Americans to become more involved in political and civic affairs of the United States. They are now voting in large numbers and starting to win elections across the country. 

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
"Integration without assimilation is the only way forward. It is, as the prophet Jeremiah suggested, to transmit the richness of your own cultures while seeking the peace and prosperity of the city to which you have been carried" #Multiculturalism #America https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/24/opinion/creative-minority-multiculturalism.html

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once observed that being a minority in 19th-century Europe was like living in someone else’s country home. The aristocrat owned the house. Other people got to stay there but as guests. They did not get to set the rules, run the institutions or dominate the culture.

Something similar can be said of America in the 1950s. But over the ensuing decades, the Protestant establishment crumbled and America became more marvelously diverse. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a member of a minority group — or several. Maybe you’re Black or Jewish or Muslim. Maybe you’re gay, trans, Hispanic, Asian American, socialist, libertarian or Swedenborgian.

Even the former country house owners have come to feel like minority members. The formerly mighty mainline Protestant denominations, like the Episcopalians and Methodists, have shrunk and lost influence. Even some of the people who used to regard themselves as part of the majority have come to feel like minorities. White evangelical Protestants are down to about 15 percent of the country. They vote for people like Donald Trump in part because they feel like strangers in their own land, oppressed minorities fighting for survival.

We live in an age of minorities. People assert their minority identities with justified pride. It might be most accurate to say that America is now a place of jostling minorities. The crucial questions become: How do people think about their minority group identity and how do they regard the relationships between minorities?

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First, assimilation. The assimilationists feel constricted by their minority identity. They want to be seen as individuals, not as a member of some outsider category. They shed the traits that might identity themselves as Jews or Mexicans or what have you.

Second, separatism. The separatists want to preserve the authenticity of their own culture. They send their kids to schools with their own kind, socialize mostly with their own kind. They derive meaning from having a strong cohesive identity and don’t want it watered down.

Third, combat. People who take this approach see life as essentially a struggle between oppressor and oppressed groups. Bigotry is so baked in that there’s no realistic hope of integration. The battle must be fought against the groups that despise us and whose values are alien to us. In fact, this battle gives life purpose.

Fourth, integration without assimilation. People who take this approach cherish their group for the way it contributes to the national whole. E pluribus unum. Members of this group celebrate pluralistic, hyphenated identities and the fluid mixing of groups that each contribute to an American identity.

Our politics is so nasty now because many people find the third mind-set most compelling. Americans are a deeply religious people, especially when they think they are not being religious. And these days what I would call the religion of minoritarianism has seized many hearts. This is the belief that history is inevitably the heroic struggle by minorities to free themselves from the yoke of majority domination. It is the belief that sin resides in the social structures imposed by majorities and that virtue and the true consciousness reside with the oppressed groups.
Riaz Haq said…
Berkeley survey: Majority of #Muslim #Americans face #Islamophobia.For women, the numbers are especially staggering. Nearly 77% of Muslim women responded that they have faced some form of anti-Islamic prejudice, compared with 58.6% of men. https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Berkeley-institute-Islamaphobia-is-shockingly-16494831.php?utm_campaign=CMS%20Sharing%20Tools%20(Premium)&utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=referral via @sfchronicle

The survey also found that 93.7% of respondents said Islamophobia affects their emotional and mental well-being. Ramahi felt this daily, unable to shake a low-level fear that she might be deliberately run over while walking home from campus.

“I don’t know why, but that was always in the back of my mind,” Ramahi said. “And maybe I do know why. Maybe it’s because Muslims are constantly being talked about in this awful way. There’s this assumption that we are a threat to national security, that we are not indigenous to the United States.”

Isra Wazna, a doctoral student at the California Institute of Integral Studies, can relate. Wazna immigrated to the Bay Area from Saudi Arabia in 2006.

Wazna told The Chronicle she had visited San Francisco as a child and always loved the beautiful vistas, the eclectic mix of people and especially the fog. Yet, as a young adult “hijabi” living in Berkeley, Wazna said she confronted Islamophobia routinely.

“It’s a place that is full of contradictions,” she said.

One of the scariest experiences involved a large pickup truck pulling dangerously close to her on Highway 17 and its driver rolling down the window to mimic a war cry. But Wazna also confronted more passive forms of bias, like the woman who expressed surprise at seeing her pet a cute dog since “you guys think that dogs are dirty,” to the questions she encountered whenever she attended events that weren’t specifically about Islam.

“I couldn’t get a breather,” Wazna said. “The last thing you expect to be asked is, ‘Why are you here?’”

Then came the incident that made her reconsider wearing her hijab. It was night and she was on a local university campus with a friend. They had stopped to withdraw money from an ATM when they heard screeching tires. Wazna’s friend screamed as a car pulled close to Wazna. The car pulled away, leaving Wazna and her friend both shaken.

For Wazna, it was a clear act of Islamophobia, but some she told suggested she misunderstood, which she said left her feeling gaslighted. She didn’t report the incident to authorities. Neither did more than half of those surveyed.

The Othering & Belonging Institute, which surveyed 1,123 Muslim Americans in late 2020, found that 40% of respondents have tried to hide their religious identity, while 91.8% of women “censor their speech or actions out of fear of how people might respond or react to them.”

Elsadig Elsheikh, director of the institute’s Global Justice program, said this results in Muslims being afraid to connect with other Muslims. He attributed this to the “element of suspicion” injected into daily Muslim life after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the FBI teamed with local law enforcement agencies to surveil Muslim communities, leaving many to think “maybe it’s better for me not to have a connection with people that I don’t know.”

For him, it was one of the survey’s sadder findings.

Elsheikh hoped the survey would help Muslims realize they are not alone, but also enlighten the broader public about Islamophobia, where it comes from and how to combat it.

“We need to expose and reject the logic of laws and legal affiliations that aim to single out Muslims and use them as a scapegoat for our own political, social and economic challenges and failures,” he said. “We really need to think about the visibility of Muslims in our media because that will help us to prevent normalizing fear and alienation of Muslims.”

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