Dearborn mayor brings Muslims into the mainstream

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Updated 12 May 2023

Dearborn mayor brings Muslims into the mainstream

Dearborn mayor brings Muslims into the mainstream
  • Dearborn’s first Arab-Muslim mayor achieved the first paid holidays for Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha in the country
  • Dearborn’s first Arab-Muslim Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said he won’t compare himself to John F. Kennedy

CHICAGO: Dearborn mayor Abdullah Hammoud won’t compare himself to US President John F. Kennedy who battled bigotry in the 1960s to gain acceptance of his Catholic religion. Hammoud said that the key to success for any leader was to ensure that government fairly reflected the diversity of its community.

Since his election as Dearborn’s first Arab and Muslim mayor, Hammoud has achieved public acceptance of Muslims by ensuring that everyone is treated equally and that their needs and interests are addressed equally and fairly.

Hammoud convinced the city’s powerful unions through negotiations to grant all city employees paid days off for the two Muslim Ramadan holidays, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, similar to the paid religious holidays granted to Christians and Jews.

“We found out that was a first when we did it. When we were negotiating with our union sisters and brothers in the collective bargaining agreements, we offered Eid Al-Fitr, the Eid after Ramadan, as well as Eid Al-Adha, the Eid that commemorates the returning of the pilgrimage, the conclusion of the pilgrimage both as paid holidays. I think it is important because when you have a diverse workforce you want to ensure you are addressing the needs of this diverse workforce,” Hammoud said during an interview on The Ray Hanania Radio Show, broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News.

“The city has always given Easter, Christmas Eve, Christmas, other holidays that are entrenched in other faith traditions, every single year. Now that you have a growing Muslim workforce, many of the majority of the residents who happen to come to City Hall are going to be coming that day because they are busy doing the Eid functions. We thought it wise to offer those two days, and the news broke we were the first to do it, but that really wasn’t the intention. I remember entering that table with the unions and it was just like, I’m not coming in on Eid; you want to come in on Eid? And the collective answer was many of our union members are also not coming in because it is a relative, faith holiday for a big chunk of our city.”

Hammoud added, “That’s literally all it took, was just recognizing the diverse workforce that we had and that growing concentration of Muslim Americans within the city administration but also in the city itself.”

Not only is Hammoud the city’s first Arab and Muslim mayor, he is also the youngest person to serve as mayor in Dearborn, a city that is the seventh largest and fastest growing in the state of Michigan. Dearborn, Hammoud said, has always had an immigrant population, which continues to grow and prosper.


“We have proliferated as a community because of the immigration refugees who have settled here or resettled here in the city of Dearborn. Obviously, with the Afghani refugees that have come in, they have been stationed at the border between Dearborn and Detroit,” Hammoud said.

“But what we found was many of the Afghani refugees would love to be permanently resettled in the City of Dearborn because of our welcoming nature and the fact that we were once home to Italian immigrants, the Polish immigrants, Lebanese, Yemeni, Iraqi, now Afghani. And so we are really known in that respect. If you look at our small businesses that are proliferating, it is largely immigrant-owned businesses that are proliferating. It has only added to the vibrancy of the city of Dearborn, so we welcome it.”

Asked if he saw similarities with the challenges that John F. Kennedy faced when he became the nation’s first Catholic president in the 1960s, at a time when Catholics were subject to bigotry and discrimination, Hammoud called it a natural process.


“I think once you achieve that milestone, it kind of is great and we just keep moving on. We never ran to be the first, we ran to be the best. I wouldn’t compare myself to JFK. But what I would say is I think there is understanding, at least in the city of Dearborn and in many pockets across the country, that what matters is not the direction that an individual prays. What matters is the direction which an individual leads,” Hammoud said.

“And hopefully that is what leads to stronger, growing communities. It hasn’t been an issue. It has been welcomed and embraced. But we always have to keep our ear to the ground. The important part of government is making sure that you build pathways of trust with your residents because that trust is what allows you to maneuver, to advance, to advocate for. So that is what we are trying to do.”

Hammoud said that discrimination was not a major issue in Dearborn, although it did exist in pockets throughout the city, the state and the country, and must be addressed.


“Dearborn is obviously a multi-ethnic community. I wouldn’t say being Arab or Muslim is not easier because the mayor is (Arab and Muslim), but Dearborn has always been that welcoming place. There are certainly challenges that arise out of being Arab or Muslim. That always happens,” Hammoud said.

“Oftentimes what happens is people might think you are pushing one sub-sector of the community more than the other without validation or justification, and just because of perception. What I try to do is make sure I have a very diverse administration to look like the community we are serving. And that the agenda that we are rolling out impacts all the residents in all four corners of our city. That is really what we are trying to do.”

“In the immediate post-9/11 era in which I grew up in, you obviously saw that bigotry at an all-time high. I would tell you that in the city of Dearborn we really don’t see much of that within our boundaries. Certainly, there are still elements where that does happen. And oftentimes, maybe not just toward the Arab-American and Muslim community, to other communities as well, that we try to address and tackle collectively.”

Hammoud said that his priority, and the public’s real priority, was to see the services that the public needs delivered, and he continues to work in that direction.

Those priorities during his first 14 months in office include securing $30 million in federal funding to address the effect of the devastating floods that hit Dearborn in 2021, addressing the pressures of rising property taxes, providing parks for families and children, expanding mental health care services, and working on a health care needs assessment for the city’s residents.

“We have been able to accomplish all that we set out to accomplish but there is a whole host of issues that takes some time to tackle,” he said.

No novice to politics or public service, Hammoud previously served three terms in the Michigan State General Assembly from January 2017 through his mayoral election. He was only 26 years old when he ran for the state house.

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US, Japanese, Philippine coast guard ships stage law enforcement drills near South China Sea

US, Japanese, Philippine coast guard ships stage law enforcement drills near South China Sea
Updated 13 sec ago

US, Japanese, Philippine coast guard ships stage law enforcement drills near South China Sea

US, Japanese, Philippine coast guard ships stage law enforcement drills near South China Sea
  • The Biden administration has been strengthening an arc of military alliances in the Indo-Pacific to better counter China
ABOARD BRP CABRA, Philippines: US, Japanese and Philippine coast guard ships staged law enforcement drills in waters near the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday as Washington presses efforts to reinforce alliances in Asia amid an increasingly tense rivalry with China.
The drills, witnessed by journalists onboard a Philippine coast guard patrol boat, the BRP Cabra, included a scenario involving the interdiction and boarding of a vessel suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction off the Bataan Peninsula, Philippine coast guard spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo said.
The US Coast Guard is deploying one of its most advanced cutters, the 127-meter Stratton, in the June 1-7 exercises hosted by the Philippines, Washington’s oldest treaty ally in Asia. The Stratton has been conducting exercises in the region to share expertise in search and rescue and law enforcement, the US Coast Guard said.
“This first trilateral engagement between the coast guards of these nations will provide invaluable opportunities to strengthen global maritime governance though professional exchanges and combined operations,” the Stratton’s commanding officer, Capt. Brian Krautler, said at the start of the exercises. “Together we’ll demonstrate professional, rules-based standards of maritime operations with our steadfast partners to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Japan deployed a large coast guard ship, the Akitsushima, while four Philippine coast guard vessels joined the exercises.
The Biden administration has been strengthening an arc of military alliances in the Indo-Pacific to better counter China, including in the South China Sea and in any future confrontation over Taiwan, the self-governing island which Beijing regards as a Chinese province.
Washington lays no claims to the strategic South China Sea, where China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysian, Taiwan and Brunei have been locked in tense territorial stand-offs for decades. But the US says freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes in the busy waterway are in its national interest.
Philippine officials say such joint exercises with US forces do not target any country. But China has warned that increased US security deployments in Asia target Beijing’s interests and undermine regional stability.
The US Pacific Command said over the weekend that a US guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate were intercepted by a Chinese warship in the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese vessel overtook the American ship and veered across its bow at a distance of about 140 meters in an “unsafe manner,” it said.
Last month, the US Indo-Pacific Command said a Chinese J-16 fighter aircraft flew directly in front of a US Air Force RC-135 plane in an “an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” while the American reconnaissance plane “was conducting safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace, in accordance with international law.”
In April, Japan adopted a new five-year ocean policy that calls for stronger maritime security, including bolstering its coast guard’s capability and cooperation with the military. It cited a list of threats, including repeated intrusions by Chinese coast guard ships into Japanese territorial waters.
The Philippine coast guard, meanwhile, has intensified patrols in the South China Sea and taken extra efforts to document and publicize assertive Chinese behavior in the waterway following a Feb. 6 incident in which a Chinese coast guard ship aimed a military-grade laser that briefly blinded some crew members on a Philippine patrol boat off a disputed reef.

Flood-hit Pakistanis still waiting on promised rebuild

Flood-hit Pakistanis still waiting on promised rebuild
Updated 06 June 2023

Flood-hit Pakistanis still waiting on promised rebuild

Flood-hit Pakistanis still waiting on promised rebuild
  • The monsoon deluges of last summer submerged a third of the country, killing 1,700 people and displacing eight million more

DADU: Noor Bibi lost her mother, her daughter and the roof over her head in the catastrophic floods that drowned Pakistan last summer.
One year later she remains homeless, living with the remnants of her family in spartan tents marking where the village of Sohbat Khosa was gutted by the deluge in southern Sindh province.
Noor, a farm worker approaching her 60s, prays for “someone with righteous thoughts that will help us build some good houses in an elevated place.”
“If it flooded again, we would not bear such big losses,” she told AFP.
But government pledges to rebuild flood-ravaged swathes of Pakistan so they are resilient to future extreme weather have largely failed to materialize.
The monsoon deluges of last summer submerged a third of the country, killing 1,700 people and displacing eight million more.
Climate change is making those seasonal rains heavier and more unpredictable, scientists say, raising the urgency of flood-proofing the country.
A failure to do so will be most acutely felt by the poor, who tend to live in the most vulnerable areas.

Here in Dadu district, which was heavily flooded, no rehabilitation is visible. Rare pieces of public infrastructure remain in disrepair and housing reconstruction is left to locals or NGOs.
In January, Islamabad announced a “Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework” valued at $16.3 billion, but it remains confined to paper.
International donors have also pledged $9 billion, but most of the cash will come in the form of loans.
Villagers’ crops were swept away in the floods, depriving them of livelihoods that might have allowed them to pave their own way to recovery.
With pooled funds, the residents of Sohbat Khosa only raised enough for a toilet and water tank.
Their best hope is the Alkhidmat Foundation, a Pakistani NGO, which plans to build around 30 new homes.
“The government seems to not exist here, and if anything is done by the government, that is only corruption,” said Ali Muhammad, a coordinator for Alkhidmat in Dadu.
Pakistan is currently mired in dual political and economic crises that have brought all public initiatives to a standstill.
But decades of entrenched corruption and mismanagement are also to blame.
“Building back better is expensive, and the amount of damage is colossal,” Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told AFP.
He said he “can’t speak to what the federal government has done,” but in Sindh province, controlled by his party, “we’ve started a couple of initiatives.”
“One is the financing of the reconstruction of houses, through NGOs and charity organizations,” he said.
However, Alkhidmat, like two other NGOs interviewed by AFP, has not received any public money and relies entirely on private funds.

Thanks to Alkhidmat’s efforts, a few dozen homes have been built in the district, but it’s nowhere near the two million damaged or destroyed in the floods.
The village of Bari Baital, submerged until November, is expected to eventually host 80 houses built by the foundation — far too few for its thousands of inhabitants.
To resist future rains they are raised on brick pillars, and built with reinforced roofs and water-resistant cement.
“People are completely unaware of climate change,” said village teacher Imtiaz Ali Chandio.
All they know is that their village has been a “passage for floods for centuries,” he said.
But moving is not an option, meaning the scenario will likely soon be repeated.
“Where else could we go?” asked Abdulrahim Brohi, who already weathered catastrophic floods in 2010. “Everything of ours is here.”
“Somewhere else people won’t accept us,” added Brohi, who estimates his age to be between 50 and 60. “We don’t have resources to rebuild our houses here, so how can we afford land somewhere else?“

Prized by tourists for its scenic mountain vistas, the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan was also hit hard by last year’s floods.
Hundreds of hotels, restaurants, businesses and homes perched on the banks of the Swat river were swept away as ferocious waters were funnelled down the ravine.
To prevent a repeat of the disaster, authorities have “imposed a complete ban on the construction of any sort of building on the river,” said Irfanullah Khan Wazir, Swat’s deputy commissioner.
Nonetheless, in Bahrain, a small resort town once half underwater, the government’s writ is so weak that builders are riding roughshod over the ban.
A number of shops, restaurants and hotels have been renovated or rebuilt just meters from the coursing water. Even the mosque has been rebuilt on the same spot where it was heavily damaged.
“People are doing illegal construction on weekend nights, but [authorities] are not paying any heed — their silence is baffling,” said hotel manager Zafar Ali.
His own property is under construction 20 meters (65 feet) from the river, in a zone he says is authorized.
It is now protected by a flood wall twice the height of the previous one. Economic considerations also prevented them from relocating away from their waterfront vantage.
“Tourists want to be able to open their windows and see the river outside,” Ali said. “Those built further away struggle to cover their expenses.”
Locals in Swat also condemned the inaction of authorities. The main road following the river has been reopened, but whole sections of tarmac remain torn away.
Compensation schemes have been limited to certain people who lost their homes. They are granted 400,000 rupees ($1,400), nowhere near enough to rebuild.
Muhammad Ishaq, a tailor in Bahrain, built his house near the river for easy access to the water. He watched as his home was swallowed by the floods, and has since been forced to move in with his father further up the mountainside.
Life there is harsher, he told AFP, but even if he manages to rebuild, he knows he “will have to stay away from the river.”

South Korea’s Yoon says alliance with US ‘nuclear-based’

South Korea’s Yoon says alliance with US ‘nuclear-based’
Updated 06 June 2023

South Korea’s Yoon says alliance with US ‘nuclear-based’

South Korea’s Yoon says alliance with US ‘nuclear-based’
  • Upgrade in alliance in the face of North Korea’s growing military threat
  • North Korea this year test-fired its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile

SEOUL: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Tuesday he has upgraded the country’s alliance with the United States to one that is “nuclear-based” in the face of North Korea’s growing military threat.
Yoon was referring to his talks with US President Joe Biden in April on Washington’s willingness to give Seoul more insight into its nuclear planning in the event of potential conflict with nuclear-armed North Korea.
“North Korea is enhancing its nuclear and missile capabilities, and has legislated the use of nuclear weapons,” Yoon said in a speech marking South Korea’s Memorial Day.
At their summit in Washington, the two leaders agreed to strengthen the so-called US extended deterrence, which envisions the use of US nuclear weapons to defend the South.
“The South Korea-US alliance has now been elevated to ‘nuclear-based’ alliance,” Yoon said.
North Korea this year test-fired its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile and last week attempted to launch its first spy satellite, although the rocket and the payload plunged into the sea.
North Korea made a rare and swift admission of the launch’s failure but vowed to try again and put a satellite in orbit to increase its military surveillance capabilities.
The launch was widely condemned as violating UN Security Council resolutions that ban the use of ballistic missile technology by the North.
Pyongyang has rejected the ban as an infringement of its sovereign right to self-defense and space development.
While Yoon characterized his talks with Biden as an agreement to use US nuclear weapons in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, Biden reiterated a pledge “to make every effort to consult” with allies on the use of a nuclear weapon.
Yoon did not elaborate further on the subject and devoted most of his Memorial Day speech to honoring those who had made sacrifices in defense of the country.
South Korea’s military has been undertaking a salvage operation at sea off the west coast to recover a substantial segment of the rocket launched by the North on May 31.

Deputy governor of northern Afghan province killed in car bomb attack

Deputy governor of northern Afghan province killed in car bomb attack
Updated 06 June 2023

Deputy governor of northern Afghan province killed in car bomb attack

Deputy governor of northern Afghan province killed in car bomb attack

KABUL: The deputy governor of Afghanistan’s northern Badakhshan province was killed by a car bomb on Tuesday, the provincial spokesperson said.
“Nissar Ahmad Ahmadi, with his driver, has been killed and six civilians were injured,” said Mahzudeen Ahmadi, the head of the information office of Badakshan, a province in the far north of the country that shares a border with China and Tajikistan.
It was not clear who was behind the bombing, which was the first known major blast or attack on a Taliban official in Afghanistan in several weeks.
The Taliban administration has been carrying out raids against members of Daesh, which had claimed several major attacks in urban centers.
The Daesh has also targeted Taliban administration officials, including claiming the killing of the governor of northern Balkh province in an attack on his office in March.

Ukraine accuses Russia of destroying major dam near Kherson, warns of widespread flooding

Ukraine accuses Russia of destroying major dam near Kherson, warns of widespread flooding
Updated 06 June 2023

Ukraine accuses Russia of destroying major dam near Kherson, warns of widespread flooding

Ukraine accuses Russia of destroying major dam near Kherson, warns of widespread flooding
  • Both sides blamed the other for destroying the dam
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky called an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis

KYIV, Ukraine: Ukraine on Tuesday accused Russian forces of blowing up a major dam and hydroelectric power station in a part of southern Ukraine that Russia controls, sending water gushing from the breached facility and risking massive flooding. Ukrainian authorities ordered hundreds of thousands of residents downriver to evacuate.
Russian officials countered that the Kakhovka dam was damaged by Ukrainian military strikes in the contested area.
The fallout could have broad consequences: Flooding homes, streets and businesses downstream; depleting water levels upstream that help cool Europe’s largest nuclear power plant; and draining supplies of drinking water to the south in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed.
The dam break added a complex new element to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, now in its 16th month, as Ukrainian forces were widely seen to be moving forward with a long-anticipated counteroffensive in patches along more than 1,000-kilometers of frontline in the east and south of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom said in a Telegram statement that the blowing up of the dam “could have negative consequences for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” near the dam, but at the moment situation is “controllable.”
The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency wrote on Twitter that its experts were closely monitoring the situation at the plant, and there was “no immediate nuclear safety risk” at the facility.
According to the Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Working Group, a total collapse in the dam would wash away much of the left bank and a severe drop in the reservoir has the potential to deprive the nuclear plant of crucial cooling, as well as dry up the water supply in northern Crimea.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that “a global ecological disaster is playing out now, online, and thousands of animals and ecosystems will be destroyed in the next few hours.”
Videos posted online began testifying to the spillover: One showed floodwaters inundating a long roadway, another showed a beaver scurrying for high ground from rising waters.
Zelensky called an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis, Ukrainian officials said.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry called for residents of 10 villages on the river’s right bank and parts of the city of Kherson downriver to gather essential documents and pets, turn off appliances, and leave, while cautioning against possible disinformation.
The Russian-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontyev, said the strikes were “a very serious terrorist act” said Moscow-appointed authorities are “preparing for the worst consequences” — though stopping short of urging an evacuation of city residents.
Ukraine controls five of the six dams along the Dnipro, which runs from its northern border with Belarus down to the Black Sea and is crucial for the entire country’s drinking water and power supply.
Footage from what appeared to be a monitoring camera overlooking the dam that was circulating on social media purported to show a flash, explosion and breakage of the dam.
Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, said in a video posted to Telegram shortly before 7 a.m. that “the Russian army has committed yet another act of terror,” and warned that water will reach “critical levels” within five hours.
The Kakhovska dam was completely destroyed, Ukraine’s state hydro power generating company wrote in a statement: “The station cannot be restored.” Ukrhydroenergo also claimed that Russia blew up the station from inside the engine room.
Leontyev, the Russian-appointed mayor, said Tuesday that numerous strikes on the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant destroyed its valves, and “water from the Kakhovka reservoir began to uncontrollably flow downstream.” Leontyev added that damage to the station was beyond repair, and it would have to be rebuilt.
Energoatom, the nuclear operator, wrote that the Kakhovka reservoir, where water levels are “rapidly decreasing,” is necessary “for the plant to feed the turbine condensers and ZNPP safety systems,” the statement said.
“Currently the station cooling pond is full: as of 8 am, the water level is at 16.6 meters, and this is enough for the needs of the station,” it said.
Ukraine and Russia have previously accused each other of targeting the dam with attacks, and last October Zelensky predicted that Russia would destroy the dam in order to cause a flood.
Authorities, experts and residents have for months expressed concerns about water flows through — and over — the Kakhovka dam.
In February, water levels were so low that many feared a meltdown at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, whose cooling systems are supplied with water from the Kakhovka reservoir held up by the dam.
By mid-May, after heavy rains and snow melt, water levels rose beyond normal levels, flooding nearby villages. Satellite images showed water washing over damaged sluice gates.
Ukraine controls five of the six dams along the Dnipro River, which runs from its northern border with Belarus down to the Black Sea and is crucial for the entire country’s drinking water and power supply. The Kakhovka dam — the one furthest downstream — is controlled by Russian forces.