Tuesday, November 16, 2021

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.


Foreign Born Americans' Origins. Source: Pew Research

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. 

2 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...

Their ‘Ask a Muslim’ project went viral. Now they have a travel show about Islam in the U.S.
Rapper-activist Mona Haydar and husband Sebastian Robins star in ‘The Great Muslim American Road Trip’ for PBS

https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2022/02/15/great-muslim-american-road-trip-show-pbs/

Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins felt they had a deep understanding of Islam. But filming “The Great Muslim American Road Trip,” a docuseries that will air on PBS this summer, made the married couple realize how much more they had to learn.

Haydar, a Syrian American rapper and activist whose music videos boast millions of views on YouTube, grew up Muslim. Robins, a writer and educator, converted to Islam after they met. The show follows the couple as they traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles via historic Route 66 in September. Along the way, they learned about Islam’s roots in America, explored nearby Muslim communities and took in the sights. In Chicago, they met with Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum Ali and toured the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) to learn about structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan, known for his work on the innovative tubular design for high-rises. On more than a dozen stops, Haydar and Robins visited with restaurateurs, doctors and authors.

“This is a deep passion of ours; it’s our faith and our practice,” Haydar said. “And it really felt like this epic quest of learning and finding the clues and piecing them together.”

The couple garnered widespread attention for their “Ask a Muslim” project, following terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015. Outside a Cambridge Mass., library, they set up signs that invited passersby to “talk to a Muslim” and ask them questions over free doughnuts and coffee. Haydar’s song “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)” was also named one of 2017’s best protest songs by Billboard.

By The Way talked to the Michigan-based couple about the goals of their show, how the trip informed their feelings about identity and assimilation, and how they handled the long drive.

Q: How did the idea for the show come about?

Mona: It was an interesting call we got asking us if we were interested in taking a road trip across the country, and we kind of hopped on the opportunity. Having been a couple for almost a decade, and parents for basically eight of those years, for us it was an exciting opportunity to explore a little bit of Route 66 and also our own relationship.

Q: What did you learn about the Muslim American experience along the way?

Sebastian: I feel like from beginning to end, it was really kind of mind-blowing and -opening for us.

Mona: Our son listens to audiobooks, and he loves the ones about mysteries and solving the mystery. And it actually felt that way a little bit of the time to me, where we were on this epic quest to unearth the hidden secrets. We’re both highly educated people, and we both somehow were not educated at all about this particular topic.

Q: What do you hope viewers take away from the show?

Mona: I hope people laugh at us. We’re very kind of corny and we have our little inside jokes, and I hope that people feel let in on that because I think we’re funny and I think we have a funny rapport and banter. I hope that that’s what people take away, feeling a human connection in a time where so many of us were isolated for so long.

Sebastian: We really wanted to use that journey as a lens for something bigger. I hope people can kind of see that story through us, [with] us as this lens or this magnifying glass or this reflection booth, to tell the story of a group of people that has largely either been ignored or maligned. I don’t mean just celebrities like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, who deserve all the research and stories and movies they can get, but the people who are running restaurants, the people who are rebuilding mosques, the people who are —

Mona: Doctors and serving their communities.