Hamtramck, Michigan, known for being the first Muslim-majority city council in the U.S., was celebrated for its diversity. However, it has recently sparked controversy by passing legislation banning Pride flags, resulting in heightened tensions and accusations of betrayal from LGBTQ+ residents and former supporters. The Guardian has the story.
In 2015, many liberal residents in Hamtramck, Michigan, celebrated as their city attracted international attention for becoming the first in the United States to elect a Muslim-majority city council.
They viewed the power shift and diversity as a symbolic but meaningful rebuke of the Islamophobic rhetoric that was a central theme of then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign.
This week many of those same residents watched in dismay as a now fully Muslim and socially conservative city council passed legislation banning Pride flags from being flown on city property that had – like many others being flown around the country – been intended to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
Muslim residents packing city hall erupted in cheers after the council’s unanimous vote, and on Hamtramck’s social media pages, the taunting has been relentless: “Fagless City”, read one post, emphasised with emojis of a bicep flexing.
In a tense monologue before the vote, Council member Mohammed Hassan shouted his justification at LGBTQ+ supporters: “I’m working for the people, what the majority of the people like.”
While Hamtramck is still viewed as a bastion of multiculturalism, the difficulties of local governance and living among neighbours with different cultural values quickly set in following the 2015 election. Some leaders and residents are now bitter political enemies engaged in a series of often vicious battles over the city’s direction, and the Pride flag controversy represents a crescendo in tension.
“There’s a sense of betrayal,” said the former Hamtramck mayor Karen Majewski, who is Polish American. “We supported you when you were threatened, and now our rights are threatened, and you’re the one doing the threatening.”
For about a century, Polish and Ukrainian Catholics dominated politics in Hamtramck, a city of 28,000 surrounded by Detroit. By 2013, largely Muslim Bangladeshi and Yemeni immigrants supplanted the white eastern Europeans, though the city remains home to significant populations of those groups, as well as African Americans, whites and Bosnian and Albanian Americans. According to the 2020 census some 30% to 38% of Hamtramck’s residents are of Yemeni descent, and 24% are of Asian descent, largely Bangladeshi.
After several years of diversity on the council, some see irony in an all-male, Muslim elected government that does not reflect the city’s makeup.
Worth reading in full.