Hamtramck, Michigan: In 1st Majority-Muslim U.S. City, Residents Tense About its Future

Ham-Mich-WaPo

HAMTRAMCK, MICH. — Sarah Pullman Bailey reports: Karen Majewski was in such high demand in her vintage shop on a recent Saturday afternoon that a store employee threw up her hands when yet another visitor came in to chat. Everyone wanted to talk to the mayor about the big political news.

“In many ways, Hamtramck is a microcosm of the fears gripping parts of the country since the Islamic State’s attacks on Paris: The influx of Muslims here has profoundly unsettled some residents of the town long known for its love of dancing, beer, paczki pastries and the pope.”

Earlier this month, the blue-collar city that has been home to Polish Catholic immigrants and their descendents for more than a century became what demographers think is the first jurisdiction in the nation to elect amajority-Muslim council.

A statue of Pope John Paul II in Hamtramck’s Pope Park is a nod to the city’s Polish American beginnings. (Salwan Georges/For The Washington Post)

It’s the second tipping for Hamtramck (pronounced Ham-tram-ik), which in 2013 earned the distinction becoming of 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.

“There’s definitely a strong feeling that Muslims are the other. It’s about culture, what kind of place Hamtramck will become. There’s definitely a fear, and to some degree, I share it.”

— Majewski, whose family emigrated from Poland in the early 20th century

In many ways, Hamtramck is a microcosm of the fears gripping parts of the country since the Islamic State’s attacks on Paris: The influx of Muslims here has profoundly unsettled some residents of the town long known for its love of dancing, beer, paczki pastries and the pope.

Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski adjusts hats inside her store, Tekla Vintage. (Salwan Georges/For The Washington Post)

“It’s traumatic for them,” said Majewski, a dignified-looking woman in a brown velvet dress, her long, silvery hair wound in a loose bun.

“Business owners within 500 feet of one of Hamtramck’s four mosques can’t obtain a liquor license, she complained, a notable development in a place that flouted Prohibition-era laws by openly operating bars. The restrictions could thwart efforts to create an entertainment hub downtown.”

Around her at the Tekla Vintage store, mannequins showcased dresses, hats and jewelry from the mid-20th century, and customers fingered handbags and gawked at the antique dolls that line the store, which sits across the street from Srodek’s Quality Sausage and the Polish Art Center on Joseph Campau Avenue, the town’s main drag.

“I don’t know why people keep putting religion into politics. When we asked for votes, we didn’t ask what their religion was.”

— Almasmari, who received the highest percentage of votes(22 percent) of any candidate

Majewski, whose family emigrated from Poland in the early 20th century, admitted to a few concerns of her own. Business owners within 500 feet of one of Hamtramck’s four mosques can’t obtain a liquor license, she complained, a notable development in a place that flouted Prohibition-era laws by openly operating bars. The restrictions could thwart efforts to create an entertainment hub downtown, said the pro-commerce mayor.

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

And while Majewski advocated to allow mosques to issue calls to prayer, she understands why some longtime residents are struggling to adjust to the sound that echos through the city’s streets five times each day.

“There’s definitely a strong feeling that Muslims are the other,” she said. “It’s about culture, what kind of place Hamtramck will become. There’s definitely a fear, and to some degree, I share it.”

Saad Almasmari, a 28-year-old from Yemen who became the fourth Muslim elected to the six-member city council this month, doesn’t understand that fear.

Almasmari, the owner of an ice cream company who campaigned on building Hamtramck’s struggling economy and improving the public schools, said he is frustrated that so many residents expect the council’s Muslim members to be biased. He spent months campaigning everywhere in town, knocking on the doors of mosques and churches alike, he said….(read more)

Source: The Washington Post


One Comment on “Hamtramck, Michigan: In 1st Majority-Muslim U.S. City, Residents Tense About its Future”

  1. […] Source: Hamtramck, Michigan: In 1st Majority-Muslim U.S. City, Residents Tense About its Future […]


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