The city of Hamtramck, just outside of Detroit, has elected three new city council members, making the locality what is believed to be the first Muslim-majority city council in the United States, according to the washingtonpost.com.
The city of some 22,000 inhabitants, is actually surrounded by Detoit, but remains politically separate from the city. Originally settled by Germans, Polish-Catholic immigrants came into the area when the Dodge Brothers plant opened its doors in 1914. Detroit’s politics were controlled by German Catholics at that time, so the Poles flowed into the Hamtramck area.
But the Muslim population continued to grow in the area and in 2013, the city became what most believe to be the first U.S. city to have a Muslim majority population. It it estimated that about 50 percent of the city is Muslim, and there are at least seven mosques in the area, making it the area with the most mosques per capita.
The city made headlines about a decade ago when the city council voted to allow mosques to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer from speakers on its roof.
As recent as the 1970’s, the population of Hamtramck was 90 percent Polish-Catholic. As the younger Poles moved away to larger homes in the suburbs of Detroit, Asian and Arab immigrants began to move into the city. Many of those immigrants came from Yemen, Bangladesh and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Sally Howell, a University of Michigan-Dearborn associate professor who has written a book about Muslims in the U.S. and Michigan, says the Muslim communities are transforming the city and their presence has become much more visible in the last 15 years.
Saad Almasmari, who was elected to the city council with the most percentage of votes, is a 28-year-old from Yemen who moved to Hamtramck in 2009, and gained his U.S. citizenship in 2011. He is currently working on getting his bachelors in business from Wayne State University.
He says that though he did face some opposition while running in the primary, the new make-up of the council is not about Muslim unity. He added it was not about religion, and the council is planning to work for everybody.
Hamtramck’s current mayor, Karen Majewski, is Polish, but some are saying it is only a matter of time until a Muslim is elected mayor. They see what is happening in Hamtramck as part of the American story, and it will become less unusual over time.