Jan 16 2016
Michigan city of Hamtramck, once 90% Polish, is the first Muslim-majority city in America. After pushing out most of the Polish Christians, Hamtramck also is the first city in America to elect a Muslim-majority city council.
Washington Post In November, the blue-collar city that has been home to Polish Catholic immigrants and their descendents for more than a century became what demographers think is the first jurisdiction in the nation to elect a majority-Muslim council.
It’s the second tipping for Hamtramck (pronounced Ham-tram-ik), which in 2013 earned the distinction of becoming what appears to be the first majority-Muslim city in the United States following the arrival of thousands of immigrants from Yemen, Bangladesh and Bosnia over a decade. The once-thriving factory town now struggles with one of the highest poverty rates in Michigan.
In many ways, Hamtramck is a microcosm of the fears gripping parts of the country since the Islamic State’s attacks on Paris: The influx of Muslims here has profoundly unsettled some residents of the town long known for its love of dancing, beer, paczki pastries and the pope. “It’s traumatic for them,” said Majewski.
Majewski, whose family emigrated from Poland in the early 20th century, admitted to a few concerns of her own. Business owners within 500 feet of one of Hamtramck’s four mosques can’t obtain a liquor license, she complained, a notable development in a place that flouted Prohibition-era laws by openly operating bars. The restrictions could thwart efforts to create an entertainment hub downtown, said the pro-commerce mayor.
And while Majewski advocated to allow mosques to issue calls to prayer several times a day (see below), she understands why some longtime residents are struggling to adjust to the sound that echos through the city’s streets five times each day.
Labor Day, known as Polish Day here, is marked with music, drinking and street dancing. (Not for long) Most of the women strolling Joseph Campau Avenue wear hijabs, or headscarves, and niqabs, veils that leave only the area around the eyes open. Many of the markets advertise their wares in Arabic or Bengali, and some display signs telling customers that owners will return shortly — gone to pray.
Many longtime residents point to 2004 as the year they suspected that the town’s culture had shifted irrevocably. It was then that the city council gave permission to al-Islah Islamic Center to broadcast its call to prayer from speakers atop its roof.