Voters in Hamtramck, Michigan, a small town outside of Detroit, made American history recently when they became what's considered to be the first to elect a Muslim-majority city council. Out of the six people on the city council, four were Muslim: Saad Almasmari, who was chosen Tuesday, plus incumbents Mohammed Hassan, Anam Miah and Abu Musa, the Detroit Free Press reported.
“Although we are Muslims, it doesn’t have anything to do with serving the community,” Almasmari, who left Yemen in 2009, told the Washington Post. “It’s not about religion. It’s not about Muslim unity. We are planning to work for everyone.”
Hamtramck, which has a population of about 22,000, was dominated for decades by Polish immigrants and their descendants. But its makeup has evolved. The United States Census doesn't track religion, but its data shows that 24 percent of Hamtramck residents are Arab, 19 percent black, 15 percent Bangladeshi, 12 percent Polish and 6 percent Yugoslavian, UPI reported. The city opened BanglaTown, a neighborhood-turned-cultural destination with Bangladeshi restaurants and stores, and established a Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee (BAPAC) office there last week. It also allows mosques to broadcast calls to prayer via loudspeaker.
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However, the diverse city still has its fair share of controversy. During the run-up to the election, critics passed out flyers reading "Get the Muslim Out of Hamtramck" and "Let's Take Back Our Community," Deadline Detroit reported. Almasmari's campaign ads were vandalized. Later, a leaked video showed community organizer Ibrahim Algahim saying, "Today, we show the Polish and everybody else."
Leaders remained hopeful that Hamtramck's city council election could lead to permanent change. "They, more than anybody, want to prove that they can solve the problems of the city for everybody and work for everybody’s benefit,” activist Bill Meyer told the Detroit News. “Hamtramck, I think, was saved in a large part due to the presence of Muslims. So for that they need to be praised, thanked, supported and worked with."