CHICAGO: Muslims in America’s only all-Muslim-governed city of Hamtramck, Michigan will likely retain their unanimous control over the Midwest city’s future after voters selected this past week five Muslims to compete in the November elections for three city council seats.
On Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, nine candidates including three incumbent council members, eight Muslims and one white ethnic Christian who has a long history of service in Michigan’s large Arab American community, faced off in the first round of non-partisan election competition. But the election turnout that day was very low, with only 17 percent of registered voters actually voting.
Veteran Michigan political observer Kyle Melinn, editor of the online MIRS site, which covers Michigan elections, told Arab News that despite the controversies, he does not expect Hamtramck’s low voter turnout from last week to improve when voters return to the polls on Nov. 7, 2023.
“As far as turnout, I don’t think it will be that much higher. In other communities, you see a little bit more of an uptick. Maybe it will go up to 20 or 21 percent,” Melinn said on The Ray Hanania Radio Show on the US Arab Radio Network sponsored by Arab News.
“But if these candidates can’t inspire people to the polls (in the Aug. 8 primary election), it is hard to see that they will do so, unless something substantial changes, in November. I think it is going to be a super tight election and the individual candidates there will need to work hard in order to separate themselves. But I don’t necessarily see a big ground swell of change there.”
You can listen to the podcast of The Ray Hanania Radio Show at ArabNews.com.
Six of the candidates in the election on Aug. 8 — three incumbent council members and three new candidates, including two Muslims and one Christian — won and will face off in a final round on the Nov. 7 elections for the council’s three seats.
Hamtramck received much attention after a Muslim candidate with no prior election experience, Amer Ghalib, easily defeated 16-year incumbent Mayor Karen Majewski in the elections two years ago, along with three Muslim council members, and today serves as mayor overseeing an all-Muslim city council.
Three incumbent council members who are seeking re-election — Mohammed Hassan, Nayeem Leon Choudhury and Mohammed Al-Somiri — faced off with six challengers in the primary this past week: Sari Ahmed, Ruhel Amin, Nasr Saleh Hussain, Muhtasin Rahman Sadman, Yousuf Osman Saed and Lynn Blasey.
City council incumbents Choudhury and Al-Somiri led the election in first and second place, with Blasey running in third place. Incumbent council member Hassan trailed Blasey in fourth place by only four votes.
Blasey, who is not Muslim, came in third place in the Aug. 8 primary elections, trailing behind two council incumbents and leading the third by a small margin. She said her election would reinforce all rights, including those of Muslims.
“My candidacy is important in Hamtramck for many reasons. I’m thoroughly committed to building community and see running as an extension of my ongoing community service. To many, I represent a diverse voice whether based on my culture, religion, gender, education, etc. Coming in third place in the primaries is confirmation that Hamtramckans want me to serve them on city council,” Blasey told Arab News.
“My position on our Muslim-majority city council should be seen as an asset because I actively work to build bridges between all of our communities and have a track record of working towards solutions to our collective challenges. Together, we have the potential to demonstrate how we can work together and be an example to the nation and world at large.”
Blasey’s election would strip Hamtramck of the unique designation as the only Muslim-governed city in America, with five Muslims running against her and splitting the vote. But she also opposes the decision by Mayor Ghalib, according to published reports, to ban the LGBTQ flag from being displayed on government property.
Ghalib banned the LGBTQ flag and all other special interest flags from being flown on Hamtramck government property denying that it was an act of discrimination. Ghalib said he respects the rights of all people although Islam, like other religions, does not recognize the LGBTQ lifestyle.
Choudhury, who is Bangladeshi Muslim, told his followers: “I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude to you as you voted for me in the pre-primary city council election that was held on Aug. 8, 2023. I also would like to thank my committee workers and leaders who worked tirelessly on field for the election campaign. I hope we will continue this momentum for the next general election that is scheduled on Nov. 7, 2023. Again, a huge thank you to everyone.”
Hamtramck’s city council consists of six council members and the mayor. Council members vote on all issues, but the mayor can only vote on ordinances (laws) and, when the council members are equally divided, to break a tie.
Three incumbent council members who are not facing election in the city council currently include Muhith Mahmood, Abu Musa and Khalil Refai.
Hamtramck is more than 60 percent Muslim, with immigrants from Yemen and Bangladesh constituting the largest populations.
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