HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – History in Hamtramck as voters elected the first majority Muslim city council in the country.
But rather than ease racial tensions, the comments from a Muslim organizer threaten to divide.
It was a historic moment Tuesday, but followed by a controversial comment that may create or widen the rift between the growing Muslim and shrinking Polish community in Hamtramck.
“Today we show the Polish and everybody else,” said Ibrahim Algahim in cell phone video.
The comments touched a nerve.
It came after Hamtramck voters elected America’s first Muslim majority city council in a town where the Polish community held the power for decades.
Cathie Lisinki-Gordon, a former councilmember, was one of Tuesday’s losers and was surprised at the comment.
“I’m shocked that he said that. I’m a very good friend of his,” she said. “I cannot believe that he would ever profile any select group. Especially when his community has felt ostracized and profiled for many years.”
The statement was immediately rebuffed by many present at the Muslim candidates’ victory lab
Saad Almasmari, the top vote getter, was one of them
“I don’t believe in that,” he said. “And as a candidate, as a city council member, I’m going to work for everybody, represent everybody, because I got elected for everybody.”
Bill Meyer is sticking up for the man who made the controversial comment.
“What Algahim was saying at the time was he was meaning that the Yemeni and Bangladeshi communities worked together to go forward with a successful election,” Meyer said.
Before the election someone passed out questionable campaign flyers telling voters to “Get the Muslim out of Hamtramck Nov. 3 and let’s take back our city.”
That obviously didn’t happen. The question now will this railroad a golden opportunity.
“The ultimate goal is to work together,” Meyer said. “We’ve got a great possibility of showing the world how great people can work together, ethnic groups can work together, to solve problems.”
Algahim was unavailable for comment, but some say he was likely referring to certain people in Hamtramck’s Polish community when he made that remark.
Others say if that’s in fact the case, he should not paint with a broad brush.