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Washington Post piece highlights "tensions" in Hamtramck as "first majority-Muslim" U.S. city

Nov 23, 2015

In her piece on tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in HamtramckWashington Post reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes that the city in 2013 "earned the distinction of becoming what appears to be the first majority-Muslim city in the United States following the arrival of thousands of immigrants from Yemen, Bangladesh and Bosnia over a decade."

On today's Frank Beckman Show on WJR, the Mayor of Hamtramck seemed to dispute that characterization.

"I'm not sure how accurate that number is," said Mayor Karen Majewski.

Whether the city is majority-Muslim or not, the city council will be this January when newly elected council members are sworn in.

Four of the six city council members in Hamtramck will be practicing Muslims, and that's a first, according to Niraj Warikoo of the Detroit Free Press:

Three of the Muslims on Hamtramck's City Council are of Bangladeshi descent, while Almasmari is of Yemeni descent. The council's only other Arab-American Muslim in its history was Abdul Algazali, who died in February.

There's no doubt the two-square-mile city in the middle of Detroit is unique in that Muslim culture is conspicuous there, just like Catholicism became conspicuous when Polish immigrants moved into the city in big numbers more than a century ago.

Now the city is shifting again.

In 2004, the city allowed a mosque to broadcast the call to prayer over its loudspeaker. Hearing the call to prayer ring through the streets is common in Muslim countries – but not in the U.S.

Here's an example one of those calls to prayer in Hamtramck:

The call to prayer is a reminder to people in the city that things are different. But Bailey points to one researcher who feels the differences in the city are less about religion, and more about a fear over what will happen to their representation:

University of Michigan at Dearborn professor Sally Howell, who has written a book on Michigan and U.S. Muslims, said that although some outsiders have equated the election results with “a Sharia takeover,” that is not a fear she hears expressed by Hamtramck’s non-Muslims.

It all boils down to “a fear that this city council won’t represent the community,” Howell said. Her own sense, she said, is that it will. 

Read the full Washington Post piece here.

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