In its centennial year of being incorporated as a city, Hamtramck is now in the national and international spotlight for becoming the first known U.S. city to be run by an all-Muslim government.
A city of mostly Polish-Americans for 99 years, locals say the population has gradually shifted to now be over half Arab-Americans. And in its 100th year, the city’s leaders reflect that change.
“It was a historic achievement that’s never happened before for the Arabs and immigrants,” Amer Ghalib, Hamtramck mayor, told Arab News. “It is historic and I’m very proud to be the first immigrant, Muslim mayor,” Ghalib said.
The Yemeni-born mayor leads Hamtramck alongside the elected city council which, with the exception of one American-born convert to Islam, is made up entirely of Arab immigrants. Having moved when he was 17, Ghalib considers the two square miles that makeup Hamtramck to be his mother city.
“I feel proud and I feel a big responsibility and this is why we have to work very hard to prove that we, as immigrants, can work and succeed in managerial, public service, and political fields in this country,” he said.
Hamtramck garnered national attention in 2015 when it was dubbed the first U.S. city to elect a Muslim-majority City Council. With Ghalib replacing Majewski, that designation now extends to the entire city government.
Preempting any Islamophobic backlash or fear, Ghalib assured citizens that they should not expect any changes from an all-Muslim city government, just efforts to revitalize city infrastructure and a commitment to serve its people.
“There is no difference because we are all bound by the city regulations and the country’s constitution, with laws and regulations that we cannot violate,” he said. “All religions promote virtue and our noble Islam promotes doing good and abandoning evil and respecting others and treating them well.”
The only American-born and woman city council member, Jaczkowski, is also a Polish Muslim, tying together the demographics of the city’s past and present.
She said although it’s exciting to be part of a historic first in representing the Muslim community, she believes the overall diversity within the council represents the people of Hamtramck quite well.
“We have three councilmembers under 40, and three over 40, and a mayor that splits the difference. We have both naturalized citizens and citizens by birth. We all are coming together to work as a team to continue Hamtramck’s progress into our 100th year as a city,” Jaczkowski said in a written statement.