Three Muslim mayors were elected in Michigan this week making history as the most Muslim mayors elected at once in one state.
In Hamtramck, Amer Ghalib defeated Mayor Karen Majewski to become not only the city’s first Muslim mayor, but the city’s first non-Polish mayor in a century.
According to the Detroit Metro Times, Ghalib, a health care worker and immigrant from Yemen, defeated opponent Majewski by a landslide.
Hamtramck has historically, for the last 100 years, always had a mayor of Polish descent. While it used to be dominantly Polish, Polish-Americans today make up less than 7% of the city, according to census reports.
As mayor, Galib will be the first Arab American and the first Muslim to serve, in a town that has the highest percentage of immigrants among cities in metro Detroit. Approximately half of the city’s population identifies as Muslim.
Advocacy groups, including the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), acknowledged the historic wins in Michigan. “We congratulate Mr. Hammoud and Mr. Ghalib on their historic victories in Dearborn and Hamtramck and for becoming the first Muslims to hold mayoral office in those cities,” CAIR-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid said in a press release. “Their victories are signs of not only the increased political engagement of Muslims in our region but also the comfort fellow Michiganians of other faiths have in supporting Muslim candidates.”
While he was campaigning, many criticized Ghalib for opposing flying an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the city and for his disapproved of marijuana dispensaries. But Ghalib told the Detroit Free Press that he would not impose his beliefs on others.
“People think because of my background and my religious beliefs that I will be anti-LGBT or something, but we are in America,” Ghalib said. “The same Constitution that allowed me to practice my religion here, to pray the way I want, it gives others the same freedom to practice their beliefs and express their values the way they want.”