A Detroit suburb became the first city in the country with a Muslim-majority city council after voters elected several new candidates on Tuesday.
Hamtramck, a town of 22,000 that used to be a Polish enclave, has seen growing political engagement among its new immigrant communities over the last few years. The city's six-person council now has three Muslim Bangladeshis and one Yemeni, the Detroit Free Press reported today.
While there's no objective measure of religion among local residents, the city is now 24% Arab, 19% African-American, 15% Bangladeshi, 12% Polish, and 6% Yugoslavian, according to census results.
One of the newly elected council members is 28-year-old Saad Almasmari, an immigrant from Yemen who got his citizenship in 2011. "I am a Yemeni American; I am from this community," he told The Arab American News. "But I was elected by everyone in the city, and I will work for everyone."
During the campaign, some of Almasmari's yard signs were vandalized with a spray-painted X. And an anonymous campaign flyer was distributed urging voters to "keep the Muslim out."
The town received national attention in 2004 when it allowed mosques to broadcast calls to prayer from roof loudspeakers, one of the only municipalities in the country to do so.
Now that the Muslim community has more political representation, maybe officials can address some of the disparities in employment: Arabs are the largest ethnic group in the city, but there are no Arabs working for the local government, the police department, or the fire department, local advocates say.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.