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Hamtramck, Michigan, soon to swear in all-Muslim city council

A portrait of a Yemeni woman by Chilean artist Dasic Fernandez can be seen on the wall of a building in Hamtramck, Michigan, in 2016. (Frank Fuhrig/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A portrait of a Yemeni woman by Chilean artist Dasic Fernandez can be seen on the wall of a building in Hamtramck, Michigan, in 2016. (Frank Fuhrig/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Hamtramck, a city nestled inside the city limits of Detroit, Michigan, will have an all-Muslim city council in January.

The city also elected a Muslim mayor, Amer Ghalib, who will be sworn in on Jan. 2.

Hamtramck is historically an immigrant city, originally a German town that progressed into a mostly blue-collar Polish community. One of the newly elected city council members, Amanda Jaczkowski, says her family came over in the early 1800s alongside many Polish immigrants.

The 2.2-square-mile city has transformed since, she says, and is now home to 28,000 people who speak about 26 languages.

“We call it the world in 2.2 square miles,” she says.

A new wave of immigrants came to Hamtramck after the Poles, making it “a very friendly city to immigrants,” she says. Jaczkowski credits the current mayor, Karen Majewski, who welcomed and encouraged incoming immigrant communities.

To anyone worried whether religion might affect her and her Muslim colleagues’ decisions, she reminds them that Hamtramck is ruled under the U.S. Constitution, which establishes separation of church and state.

“That’s something that me and my colleagues all take very seriously,” Jaczkowski says.

Some Muslim community organizations say this incoming group of elected officials may possibly be the first all-Muslim city council in the U.S. While Jaczkowski says she’s honored to be a part of it, she also wants to get to work and prove the title doesn’t matter.

“We were the qualified candidates,” she says. “We were the ones who have the most voice for the community that elected us because they trust us to represent what they need from the city.”

The city’s budget is the first issue on her list that she’d like to tackle. Hamtramck was once reliant on the auto industry as their tax base. But as factories moved to the suburbs, that tax base vanished, she says. Recouping those losses is one of her top priorities, she says.

She’s excited to work on other projects to better the city and residents’ lives, like the more than 27-mile-long bicycle greenway being built to connect Detroit, Hamtramck and Dearborn.

“I’m really happy to get my hand in the pot to really help push things along,” she says.


Julia Corcoran produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Ciku TheuriSerena McMahon adapted this interview for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.