After Tuesday's election, Muslims are to make up half of the city council members in Hamtramck, a percentage believed by advocates to be the highest Muslim representation in a municipality in the United States.
Two Muslim candidates, Kazi Miah and Mohammed Hassan, were elected Tuesday to the six-member Hamtramck City Council, joining incumbent Shahab Ahmed, whose seat was not up for re-election. All three have roots in the Muslim-majority country of Bangladesh, reflecting the growing Bangladeshi-American population in a city that was once known for its Polish Catholic community. Hamtramck also has Muslim residents from Bosnia and Yemen.
Another Muslim candidate, Abdul Algazali, narrowly lost an election Tuesday in Hamtramck for mayor to incumbent Karen Majewski by 123 votes. Algazali, of Yemeni descent, was previously a city councilman.
Miah, 30, said he moved to the United States with his parents 20 years ago to New York City and then Hamtramck 11 years ago. He remembers his parents not being able to afford new clothes for their children.
"I'm humbled," Miah told the Free Press today. "I'm the son of immigrants. My parents still don't speak English. I didn't speak one word of English when I came here. This is what the American dream is all about. I'm living it.
During the campaign, some of his critics "catered to the fear of me being a Muslim," Miah said.
But he said his campaign was for all Hamtramck residents, not for any one particular ethnicity or religion.
"I may look different, but I'm as American as you are," Miah said. "I love this city and country."
"I want to find things we all have in common, and not look for things that divide us," he said.
Miah has been a member of various groups and commissions in Hamtramck, including a Polish-American group, he said.
"I'm trying to unite people," Miah said.