Hamtramck (USA) : What has been described as “the world in two square miles”, Hamtramck, in Michigan USA has now become the first and only Muslim-run city in the United States. With about 30 languages spoken within its 5 sq km area, Hamtramck is a place where Church bells ring out along with the Islamic call to prayer.
The BBC’s Zhaoyin Feng, describing the town, wrote that a walk down the main street in Hamtramck, Michigan feels like a tour around the world.
Hamtramck set a new milestone in its history this month as it elected an all-Muslim City Council and a Muslim mayor, becoming the first in the US to have a Muslim-American government.
Muslims make up more than half the population of the multicultural town of a total of 28,000.
The story of Hamtramck going from a town of German settlers to the modern-day ‘America’s first Muslim majority city’ has its own unique history with its own ups and downs.
“It’s not unusual to see some with miniskirts and tattoos and some in burqas walking on the same street. This is all about us,” the BBC quoted Zlatan Sadikovic, a Bosnian immigrant who owns a café in downtown Hamtramck.
The city was once the epicentre of America’s automotive industry and over the course of the 20th century earned its name as “Little Warsaw,” as Polish immigrants flocked in for the blue-collar jobs. In 1970, about 90% of the city was of Polish origin.
However, during the decline of US car manufacturing, younger and wealthier Polish Americans began moving to bigger cities, a massive change that practically drained Hamtramck of its wealth and subsequently made it one of Michigan’s poorest cities, however, the affordability attracted immigrants.
In the course of the last 30 years, Hamtramck underwent another transformation becoming a hub for Arabian and Asian immigrants, mainly those from Yemen and Bangladesh. According to the BBC, about 42% of residents of the city are foreign-born with more than being practising Muslims.
The newly elected city council includes two Bengali Americans, three Yemeni Americans and a Polish-American convert to Islam. Winning 68% of the vote, Amer Ghalib will be the first Yemeni-American mayor in the US.
“I feel honoured and proud, but I know it’s a big responsibility,” Mr Ghalib, 41, was quoted by BBC.