Muslims Governing in America
Updated: Oct 7
One city in the Midwest United States is providing one of the greatest civic lessons that all Americans should be watching. The city government of Hamtramck, Michigan, has become a civics experiment in governing. This city of 28,000 was once so Polish it was dubbed "Little Warsaw." This was a working-class city where people moved to work in one of Henry Ford's auto factories.
A legend in the local Yemeni community in Detroit is that Henry Ford told a Yemeni sailor on one of his cruises about how much he paid his automobile factory workers. It was more than the sailor made, so he went to work there and brought his whole family. Word spread to friends and other sailors, which led to significant migration from Yemen and other countries of the Middle East to Detroit. The legend is unsubstantiated, but in the early days, Ford was more than willing to hire Arabs than some other immigrants, mainly Africans.
A new Arab community that included many Muslims sprang up around his first factory in Highland Park, Michigan. Recruitment of workers from Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen to help build the Ford Rouge Plant in the early 1900s resulted in the intense concentration of Arab Americans in Michigan. Initially, the recruits that arrived were Christian, but as time passed and the number of recruits increased, the percentage of Muslims increased. Hundreds of Syrian refugees were working in Henry Ford auto factories by 1916. Since then, various groups and populations have emigrated from Arab countries and flourished in Michigan. The highest concentration of Arab Americans in Michigan is in the Detroit and Dearborn area.
That brings us to Hamtramck. Hamtramck is a Detroit suburb, and two years ago, in 2021, Hamtramck became the first city in America to have an Islamic city mayor and an all-Islamic city council. The diversity of the Muslims in Hamtramck's political structure is wide. Of the six council members, three are of Yemeni descent, two are of Bangladeshi descent, and one is white but a convert. The mayor is also of Yemeni descent. The city manager and other City Hall workers are not Muslims.
There are Muslims in other city and state governments, but to my knowledge, there is no city government where all participants are Muslim, except in Hamtramck. In any Muslim-dominated country, governing a small city or even a big city would be straight by the book, the book being the Qur'an and any Sunnah or hadith that might apply. However, in the United States, federal and state laws must be followed. There are laws on civil rights that protect against race, religion, and gender discrimination, as well as harassment guidelines and other administration and expenditure laws that cannot be violated. In other words, governing is not simple, but it can be done if the rights of other citizens and minorities are not infringed upon. This experiment in Hamtramck's city government allows us to see how Muslims govern in a democracy. Let's review some of their decisions:
Israel is Bad Proclamation
In February of this year, the all-Muslim city council passed a proclamation "opposing military aid to all repressive governments." It specifically mentions the plight of "the Palestine people." Obviously, the resolution was a poorly concealed attempt to cast Israel as an aggressive country, treading on the Palestinians' rights, freedom, and sovereignty. No other small city would bother to take a stand on an international issue that has nothing to do with them, but Hamtramck did. Some investigative reporters pointed out that several city council members had antisemitic content on their social media pages, which would suggest anti-Jewish bigotry.
My last blog about Hamtramck was over a year ago, September 10, 2022, to be exact. In my blog entitled "Hamtramck's Animal Ordinance Needs Guidance," the city council proposed a law allowing animal slaughter on an annual religious holiday that Muslims celebrate. U.S. law does enable religions to sacrifice animals, so what the city council was proposing was legal, but the community was unaccustomed to it. In my blog, I recommended following the procedure of some other Muslim countries that handle the event more efficiently. Several Muslim-dominated countries like Turkey and Indonesia allow permitted individuals and licensed slaughterhouses to conduct the rituals and sell the processed remains to chaste Muslims who want to participate. The Hamtramck city council allowed local Muslims to slaughter the animals in their backyard. While I did not read that health restrictions were imposed, I can only hope they were because slaughtering and processing meat can be a messy business with unhealthy outcomes.
Another big issue of governance that disturbed many local citizens was gay pride. June is gay pride month, and it is customary in most big cities to have a gay pride parade and fly rainbow flags on city streets, city parks, and city facilities, promoting LBGT. However, after heated debate, the city council voted unanimously to block the display of Pride flags on city property in Hamtramck. The passed resolution banned not only the rainbow flag, but all flags except the U.S., state, city, and POW/MIA banners. Muslims are socially conservative, and the Qur'an and hadith are explicit regarding homosexual behavior. In other Muslim-dominated countries, homosexuals are punished, jailed, or killed. In the United States, homosexuals are tolerated by Muslims because of federal law, but federal law does not stipulate putting up rainbow flags on each flagpole.
Governing Like Muslims
Hamtramck, Michigan's mayor and city council, governs like Muslims because they are Muslims. Muslims uphold the values of their faith, including attacking Israel, sacrificing animals during their religious holidays, and maintaining a male-female marriage relationship. If you want to understand the issues, buy my book, Muslim Mechanics. Other topics that I think will eventually come up include banning LBGT books, anti-drug and anti-porn proclamations, banning books criticizing Islam, and addressing issues about free speech that touch on Islamophobia. While Islam is a pro-life religion, I am surprised that the congressional legislators from that region support Democrat pro-choice legislation. This also may be an issue the city council takes a stand on. We will have to wait and see.
Credit to Notorious4life for their photo of the Hamtramck City Hall, taken January 4, 2015 and posted on Wikimedia Commons.