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Life in the America’s First Muslim-Majority City

November 22, 2015
Plain English Version
A fair in Hamtramck, Mich.

A fair in Hamtramck, Mich.

Most of the people who live in Hamtramck, Michigan are Muslims. It now is the first city in the U.S. with that status. This election, most of the Hamtramck city council seats went to Muslims.

It is a city that has a long history as Polish-dominant. The town has been known for dancing, beer and paczki pastries.

How is the new majority working out? Not great, not bad.

Many cities in the U.S. have changing populations. Immigrants live everywhere. When new arrivals come, they bring change. For example, the mosques in Hamtramck sound the call to prayer five times a day. Some people who are living near the mosques who are not Muslims find it disturbing.

Most of the Muslim women wear hijab and niqab clothing, which covers them. A city rule says that stores within 500 feet of the four city mosques cannot sell liquor. For business people trying to start a new restaurant center downtown, this can be a problem.

Hamtramck has a population of 22,000. It has lost most of its auto-related industry. It has a high rate of poverty. However, it has low-cost housing, attracting newcomers from nearby Detroit. The talk in this city, many say, is fear of the “other.”

Markets display signs in Arabic and Bengali. A mosque leader said, “The Polish people think we were invading them. We were a big threat to their religion and culture.”

The pastor at a black Baptist church said many of the city’s African-American residents are waiting to see if the new Muslim-dominated council will represent them.

The Muslim groups are Arabic, Bangladeshi and Bosnian. The groups do not mingle much with one another because of language differences.

The recent election campaign brought out the tensions. The old-time residents are asking whose town is Hamtramck The wiser heads are saying the town belongs to everyone and no one.

Politics, culture, business and religion are all at work in Hamtramck.

Source: The Washington Post November 21, 2015

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