Dearborn mayor proudly Arab but vows to represent everyone

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Updated 04 August 2022

Dearborn mayor proudly Arab but vows to represent everyone

Dearborn mayor proudly Arab but vows to represent everyone
  • Diversity of his administration key to equitable change, says Abdullah Hammoud
  • Budget deficit, low taxes, better services are city’s challenges

CHICAGO: Dearborn’s Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said Wednesday he is proud to be the city’s first Arab and Muslim chief executive but one of his priorities is to ensure everyone, regardless of race or religion, enjoys the same level of access and service.

A former member of the Michigan State House, Hammoud, 31, was elected on Nov. 2, 2021, and declared a “new era in Dearborn,” which has a large Arab and Muslim population.

Ranked as the sixth largest city in Michigan with more than 112,000 residents, Dearborn is 89 percent White, 4 percent Black, 2 percent Asian and has a smaller Hispanic population. Arabs, Hammoud said, are lumped into the “White” category because they are excluded from the Census count.

Hammoud said that his administration is focused on “change” and “accessibility” for everyone regardless of their racial, ethnic or religious background, noting Dearborn is the “capital of immigration.”

“I never ran to be the first. I ran to be the best. And that’s what I am trying to demonstrate. Regardless of the direction in which an individual prays. What matters is the direction in which they lead. And that is really what we want to uplift and highlight. And being the first is cool. Sure. I am not going to take away from the cool factor of it. Hopefully, what it does is to demonstrate to individuals from marginalized communities, traditionally communities of color, that hey you too can do this without changing your identity or trying to wash away who you are,” Hammoud told Arab News during an appearance on The Ray Hanania Radio Show broadcast in Detroit, Washington D.C. and in Chicago.

“But what is most important is not in fact being the first. What is most important is demonstrating that you can do as good a job as every one of your predecessors so that you are not the last. So that the next time that somebody with a different sounding name, who sounds a little bit different, looks a little bit different, maybe got a longer beard than others tries to run for office; or maybe has a hijab on their head; the people don’t look and say oh they can’t do the job because no one has ever done it who looks like them. In fact they can say hey that guy Abdullah did it. Maybe this person can too.”

He said one of his first actions was to build a municipal administration that was “diverse.” Although he named an Arab American, Zaineb Hussein, as his chief of staff immediately after being sworn in as mayor in January, many of his appointments have been non-Arab.

Hammoud said his policies are driven by the Arab tradition of “wasta,” which in English is often translated into “nepotism” and “personal connection.” He explained he uses “wasta” to put every Dearborn citizen in that category “to connect” and be involved in the city’s government.

“Accessibility again is key. And regardless of one’s ethnicity, I might be Arab and Muslim, but I am also reaching out to my non-Arab counterparts. I am reaching out to my non-Arab Muslim, my non-Arab Christian counterparts,” Hammoud said.

“And that is the beauty of Dearborn where this (is a) culturally diverse, demographically diverse and ethnically diverse community, and I am hoping that everybody feels like — you know in Arabic we have this term called ‘wasta’ which means ‘to connect.’ And prior to coming in everybody said if you don’t have a ‘wasta’ you can’t get anything done in the city. What I am trying to get people to feel is that with this administration, all residents have a ‘wasta.’ You are all connected. You are all able to walk in to be treated equitably and fairly, and whatever you need to get done, as long as it is within our confines. Our motto is how can we get to ‘yes.’ We don’t want to tell people ‘no’ because that has been the standard. How can we get to ‘yes’ working with residents?”

Hammoud said one of his challenges since becoming mayor is to overcome a significant budget deficit, and ensure municipal services continue without cutbacks or having to raise taxes.

“We ran on the concepts of change. But when we came in, because I have felt that as a lifelong resident, the city has stagnated to some degree. And coming in and opening up the financial books you realize that we have really struggled much more than I had anticipated,” Hammoud said.

“So I walked in inheriting a $28 million deficit, $22 million was structural, meaning ongoing year to year. And, it was very challenging (the) first six months to put forth a budget that reflected our priorities and our values as a city, but also ensured that we uplifted not only our residents but our employees and our retirees. I think we were successful in moving something that represented our values forward. But the work is only beginning. It is easy to pass a budget. That was the work of a legislator. It’s easy to vote up or down on a budget. What is difficult is to actually execute and build out the programming in that budget so that the outcome is reflective of its intentions.”

Hammoud said he is “trying to do more with less” because the city lost so much of its operating revenues. Taxes have gone down 16 or 17 percent, he said, and he has made a commitment to balance the city budget without levying new taxes on the voters and to work within the existing tax revenue collections.

“What we are also trying to do is sustain the level of services that we offer, though. So, what we have actually been able to do is challenge the way things have always been done, and improve the service quality that we have delivered as a city at a lower cost. And that is something to be very proud of,” Hammoud said.

“And now what we are looking at is expanding programming and investing in amenities that we currently have but we have not … improved in three, four or five decades. And so, we are prepared to hopefully make some announcements in the coming months about some investments that are coming. But to your point, it has been seven months and we are trying to pace ourselves. One of the caveats to being the first is that the expectation and the bar is higher. So that means the work that we are doing is at a much quicker pace than maybe some of our predecessors were used to but hopefully (we can) deliver to the expectations of our residents.”

Helping to provide for the neediest in the city, he said, can strengthen the community.

“Any administration should be reflective of the community that it serves, and we were able to accomplish that. As it pertains to what I have been able to bring, I think, more so than being Arab American but as somebody who grew up in a working poor family, I think it is that perspective of those who grew up in a marginalized part of the city. It is one of the things that influenced for example our decision to make pools free for children 13 and under,” Hammoud said.

“Because as somebody growing up, one of five siblings, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to the pool. And so we thought waiving the fee for children means that they have access to amenities and maybe have a better experience throughout their summer in their childhood. So I think it is that perspective, it’s that ability to empathize based on my life experiences which has been pretty great.”

He said safety was a major concern but that the biggest problem was motorists who were speeding, but that oftentimes police in the past focused more on issues associated with profiling than with actual hazardous driving patterns.

“We shifted our focus to solely focus on things impacting immediate public health or what we call hazardous moving violations. So we have seen a 700 percent uptick in citations issued on speeding and reckless driving,” Hammoud explained.

“So one, we are seeing a decrease in speeding and reckless driving in the city. But the second direct and indirect outcome of this is that there was a racial disparity present in the last decade. Nearly 60 percent of all citations issued were issued to Black and African American drivers, although the region is only 22 percent Black. And under this model, not only are we improving the safety in our neighborhoods based on what residents want, but we also have seen a significant plummet in that disproportionate effect that was present based on the data and that is also something that we’re proud of.”

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions

King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions
Updated 23 sec ago

King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions

King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions

LONDON: King Charles III and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, hosted guests of South Asian heritage in Edinburgh on Monday in recognition of their contributions to British society.

The royals welcomed around 300 people at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh to recognise the contribution that South Asian communities in the UK have made to the National Health Service, arts, media, education, business and the armed forces.

The king has been involved with British Asian communities for many years through his work with the British Asian Trust which he founded in 2007 with a group of British Asian business leaders.

The royal couple are visiting Scotland as part of their first joint public engagement since the end of the royal mourning period to remember Queen Elizabeth II.

They were visiting to formally give city status to Dunfermline, the birthplace of King Charles I.

Dunfermline was among eight towns that won city status as part of Platinum Jubilee celebrations earlier this year to mark Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne.


Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines

Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines
Updated 03 October 2022

Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines

Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines
  • Typhoon Noru was the most powerful cyclone to hit the country this year
  • Climate-related disasters have been battering the Philippines with growing intensity

MANILA: When a massive typhoon barreled through the Philippines last month, it left behind casualties and destruction, triggering calls for urgent climate action in the cyclone-prone country, where extreme weather events are on the rise.

Super Typhoon Noru, locally named Karding, made landfall on the evening of Sept. 25, sweeping the densely populated island of Luzon and plunging communities in the country’s north underwater.

At least 12 people were killed and over 1 million affected by Noru, according to disaster response officials, who estimate that the landfall caused damages of nearly $51 million, leaving farmland flattened just before the harvest season.

Poor rural communities have increasingly borne the brunt of climate-related disasters, which have battered the Philippines with growing frequency over recent years.

“The stormy season is far from over. We expect our farmers and fisherfolk to face more problems this year from climate change-intensified typhoons,” the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said in a statement.

“We need to improve climate change adaptation mechanisms,” the network’s national coordinator Jon Bonifacio told Arab News. “Typhoon Noru is another wake-up call that we really need to act on the climate crisis.”

With winds of up to 240 kph and heavy rainfall, Noru quickly turned into the most powerful cyclone to hit the Philippines this year.

Emily Padilla, former agriculture undersecretary, who shared on social media photos from devastated areas, wrote after the landfall that it had brought flashbacks of the deadly Typhoon Santi, which struck Luzon in 2013.

“Trembling in fear last night, we had to cling on to God, and work on defending our only sanctuary, when it was being pounded by roaring Karding,” she said on Facebook. “Climate change is real. We must collectively work to reverse the impending death of earth, and so humankind.”

The typhoon had evolved from a tropical storm into a Category 5 typhoon over two days, which was one of the fastest such rapid intensifications ever recorded in the Pacific basin.

“This trend is caused by the effects of climate change, specifically the rising temperatures of the sea surface,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia consultant Jefferson Chua told Arab News.

“More extreme weather events will be coming our way. We are one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, and that won’t stop.”

An archipelago of more than 7,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is highly vulnerable to cyclones. Each year, about 20 typhoons, equivalent to 25 percent of the global occurrence, enter the country and about half of them wreak havoc in its northern parts.

With the changing climate and global warming, the intensity of devastating incidents has increased. Seven of the 11 strongest landfalls in recorded history have occurred since 2006.

Addressing climate change has been high on the agenda of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, who during the UN General Assembly in New York last week said that developing countries had suffered the most from climate change effects.

“This injustice must be corrected and those who need to do more must act now,” he said. “Those who are least responsible suffer the most. The Philippines, for example, is a net carbon sink, we absorb (more) carbon dioxide than we emit. And yet, we are the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change.”

But as Marcos addressed UNGA, Greenpeace criticized him for not doing enough on the national level to help avert the disastrous effects of the changing climate, which it said will “heavily impact food security, as well as other fundamental issues such as water, energy, health and poverty alleviation.”

Mitigating the impacts of the changing climate should, according to Greenpeace, start with energy transition efforts in the country, which derives most of its electricity generation from coal.

“The introduction of renewable energy into our energy mix, and the gradual and eventual phaseout from fossil fuels, is one of the biggest solutions that governments can implement in the incoming climate crisis. What’s important here to note is that these are not being done at the level of urgency that we need,” Chua said.


Indonesia sets up team to probe deadly football stampede

Indonesia sets up team to probe deadly football stampede
Updated 03 October 2022

Indonesia sets up team to probe deadly football stampede

Indonesia sets up team to probe deadly football stampede
  • At least 125 people were killed in stampede after weekend match
  • Human rights commission questions use of tear gas to control crowd

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has set up an independent team to investigate the deadly crush at a football stadium that killed at least 125 people over the weekend, the country’s chief security minister said on Monday.

The stampede in Malang, East Java, on Saturday occurred after frustrated fans from the losing home team, Arema football club, ran onto the pitch at the end of the match. Authorities said anarchy ensued, prompting officers to fire tear gas in an attempt to control the crowd.

Footage circulated on social media showed scuffling between football fans and officers in riot gear, while others rushed toward an exit gate and scaled a fence to flee the clouds of tear gas.

Indonesia’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, announced on Monday the formation of a 13-member independent fact-finding team to probe the disaster.

“The team will work within two weeks to one month at the latest, and the result of the team’s investigation and its recommendations will be handed over to the president,” Mahfud told a news conference.

Mahfud will lead the team that also includes Sports Minister Zainudin Amali, journalist Anton Sanjoyo from news daily Kompas, sports expert Akmal Marhali, and former commissioner of the Indonesia Anti-Corruption Commission Laode M. Syarif.

President Joko Widodo also instructed the Indonesian police and army to launch an internal probe into their officers’ conduct in Malang, Mahfud added, with legal actions expected against those who had “acted excessively and beyond their authority.”

The Football Association of Indonesia has suspended all games in the Indonesian top league BRI Liga 1 until the investigation has been completed.

Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights, known as Komnas HAM, has also launched its own probe into the tragedy.

“To look into whatever happened in Kanjuruhan, including the use of tear gas, that’s our agenda in Malang,” Komnas HAM commissioner, Choirul Anam, told a press briefing. “This incident must not happen again.”

The Indonesian stadium disaster was one of the worst in the history of football and the deadliest in more than half a century. In 1964, 328 people were left dead after violence broke out at the Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru.

More than 30 children, whose ages range from three to 17, were among the 125 Indonesian victims, according to a Reuters report quoting an official at the women’s empowerment and child protection ministry.

Arema FC president, Gilang Widya Pramana, apologized to the victims of the stampede on Monday, and said he was ready to take “full responsibility” for the disaster. “Lives are more precious than soccer,” he said at a news conference.

Mohamad Kusnaeni, an Indonesian sports expert, said the tragedy should serve as a uniting moment for the country’s football community.

“We should unite to improve all our shortcomings in organizing the national football competition,” he told Arab News.

Saturday’s incident cast a spotlight on Indonesia’s troubled football history, which in the past had involved violent rivalries. Previous incidents, however, have not been anywhere near as deadly. And with no visiting fans allowed in the stadium on the weekend, many Indonesians are questioning the security approach that day.

The world’s governing body of football, FIFA, has asked Indonesian football authorities for a report on the incident. According to its safety regulations, firearms or “crowd control gas” should not be used at matches.

With Indonesia set to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup next year, Kusnaeni said the issue of tear gas use must be “seriously anticipated.”

“When it comes to the use of tear gas, it is regrettable that it occurred at a sports competition. Especially when it is strictly prohibited for football games,” he added.


Two arrested after fatal stabbing outside mosque in central England

Two arrested after fatal stabbing outside mosque in central England
Updated 03 October 2022

Two arrested after fatal stabbing outside mosque in central England

Two arrested after fatal stabbing outside mosque in central England
  • Armed police detained a 56-year-old man near the scene

LONDON: Two men were arrested on suspicion of murder after a stabbing outside a mosque in the English city of Coventry on Sunday.

Armed police detained a 56-year-old man near the scene, and a 27-year-old second suspect was arrested early on Monday.

West Midlands Police responded to reports of a large group of men fighting, some armed with knives outside the Jamiah Masjid and Institute in the city, where they found two people injured.

One of the wounded, a 52-year-old man, died from his injuries a few hours later.

“We’ve made some really good early progress in this investigation, but there is still a lot of work to be done in identifying all of those involved in what happened last night,” Detective Superintendent Shaun Edwards told the media.

“Officers are speaking with residents and community leaders to offer reassurance, and patrols in the area will be stepped up.”

A police statement said the force was treating the murder as an “isolated incident,” and have ruled out the killing being linked to wider sectarian unrest which has rocked English cities across the Midlands in recent weeks.

Following violence and arrests in Leicester and Smethwick last month, faith leaders in the UK warned that clashes between groups of Hindus and Muslims could spread across the country.


Chechnya’s Kadyrov says sending teenage sons to Ukraine front

Chechnya’s Kadyrov says sending teenage sons to Ukraine front
Updated 03 October 2022

Chechnya’s Kadyrov says sending teenage sons to Ukraine front

Chechnya’s Kadyrov says sending teenage sons to Ukraine front
  • Ramzan Kadyrov, a former warlord who leads the Muslim-majority Chechnya republic, has been one of the most vocal supporters of Putin’s Ukraine offensive
  • Kadyrov’s post on Telegram concering his sons came as the Kremlin dismissed his call to use low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine after a series of military defeats

MOSCOW: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Monday he was sending three of his teenage sons — aged 14, 15 and 16 — to the Ukraine front.
“It’s time to prove themselves in a real fight, I can only welcome this desire,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram, posting a video of the young boys firing missiles in a shooting range.
“Soon they will go to the front line and will be on the most difficult sections of the contact line.”
He said Akhmat (16), Eli (15) and Adam (14) have been trained for combat “almost from their youngest years” and insisted he was “not joking.”
The video showed the boys in camouflage clothing and dark glasses, on tanks, guns strapped to their waists, shooting rocket launchers and machine guns.
At times the teenagers smile while shooting or made a thumbs-up gesture.
Kadyrov, a former warlord who leads the Muslim-majority Chechnya republic, has been one of the most vocal supporters of Putin’s Ukraine offensive.
The post came as the Kremlin on Monday dismissed his call to use low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine after a series of military defeats.
“This is a very emotional moment,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a daily briefing with journalists, referring to his statements.
“In our country, the use of nuclear weapons happens only on the basis of what is stated in the relevant doctrine,” Peskov said.
Peskov nevertheless hailed the “heroic contributions” of the Chechen leader to the military operation in Ukraine.
Kadyrov called on the nuclear option after Moscow withdrew from the town of Lyman, which took weeks to gain control of earlier this year.
“In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov said on his Telegram channel.
He also criticized Colonel-General Alexander Lapin, who is in charge of Russia’s forces fighting in the region, calling him “mediocre.”