Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and Hamtramck elect their first Muslim mayors

Posted By on Wed, Nov 3, 2021 at 9:56 AM

click to enlarge State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, right. - HOUSEDEMS.COM
  • State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, right.

In Hamtramck, changing demographics led to changing politics, while in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, politics seem to have finally caught up to demographics, as both cities elected their first Muslim mayors.

In Hamtramck, Amer Ghalib defeated Mayor Karen Majewski to become the city's first non-Polish mayor in a century. Ghalib, a health care worker and immigrant from Yemen, defeated Majewski 68-31%. A longtime Polish enclave, in recent years the city has seen an influx of immigrants from Yemen and Bangladesh, but now, Polish-Americans make up less than 7% of the city.

In Dearborn, 31-year-old State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud became the city's first Muslim mayor, defeating former state representative Gary Woronchak 54.6-45.2%, and succeeding longtime mayor Jack O'Reilly, Jr., who held the office since 2007 and stepped down due to health issues. Dearborn has been home to a large number of Arab-Americans for decades and is now home to the largest Muslim population in the U.S. per capita. Now, nearly half the city is Arab-American.

"To the young girls and boys who have been ridiculed for their faith or ethnicity, to those of you who were ever made to feel that their names are unwelcome, and to our parents and to others who are humiliated for their broken English and yet still persisted — today is proof that you are as American as anyone else, and there is a new era in Dearborn," Hammoud, whose parents are Lebanese immigrants, told supporters Tuesday, The Detroit News reported.

In nearby Dearborn Heights, Mayor Bill Bazzi, 57, was elected to continue to serve as mayor, defeating City Council Chair Denise Malinowski Maxwell 73%. Bazzi, an immigrant from Lebanon, was appointed to serve as mayor in January, following the death of Mayor Daniel Paletko, who died after testing positive with COVID-19.

In Hamtramck, Ghalib has said he opposed flying an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the city, and has also said he disapproved of the marijuana dispensaries that have appeared in the city. But Ghalib told the Detroit Free Press he would not impose his religious beliefs on others.

"People think because of my background and my religious beliefs that I will be anti-LGBT or something, but we are in America," Ghalib said. "The same constitution that allowed me to practice my religion here, to pray the way I want, it gives others the same freedom to practice their beliefs and express their values the way they want."

In his campaign, Hammoud focused on fixing Dearborn's infrastructure problems, including the historic flooding the city saw this summer, and denied his opponent's accusations that he would focus on the city's Arab population.

During his victory speech, he praised his faith.

"Allah ... has all the glory," he said, The Detroit Free Press reported. "He plans. ... He is the ultimate of planners."

This post was updated to include information about Dearborn Heights' election.

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