A Michigan city made history last week when its citizens elected the country’s first Muslim-majority city council.
Hamtramck, a city almost completely surrounded by the city of Detroit, accomplished that feat when it elected Saad Almasmari to the council, making the 28-year-old Yemeni immigrant the fourth muslim in the six-person body. Once best-known for its longstanding Polish-American community, Hamtramck is now home to a diverse Muslim community whose citizens trace their origins to Yemen, Bangladesh, Pakistan, former Yugoslavia and other countries with significant Muslim populations.
But the city-within-a-city’s internal diversity does not mean that this historic election was without controversy. Some are upset at a Muslim organizer’s remarks, which captured on a cellphone after the election: ”Today we show the Polish and everybody else.” Tensions simmered in 2013 when the city’s zoning board rejected proposals to remodel the Al-Islah Islamic Center, and a 2004 debate over a council ordiance to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer on city streets was met with heavy resistance.
In his post-election remarks to press, Almasmari pledged to serve the whole city, not just one segment:
Although [the other Muslim councilpeople and I] are Muslims, we are going to serve everyone regardless of their religion, ethnicity or skin color.