By Nargis Hakim Rahman
Two new Muslim faces have joined Hamtramck City Council on November 3, making the city council 50 percent Muslim.
According to the Detroit Free Press the number reflects the most Muslims, â€œin a municipality in the United States.â€
Kazi Miah, 30, won with 1652 votes, the highest votes. Mohammed Kamrul Hassan, 42, received 1390 votes, 40 more than he expected.
Hassan said he did not campaign a lot during the general election as he was working 12-hour shifts and did not take any days off from his job as a manufacturing expert at Faurecia Automotive Seating Inc.
â€œI had confidence. I knew I was going to get 875 votes in the primary, and 1350 votes would get me a seat,â€ Hassan said.
Hassan ran for city council after seeing discrimination to immigrant populations by police officers and city officials.
â€œI have been seeing the city administration and corruption and discrimination from police officers, how they talk when immigrant people go to the city hall,â€ said Hassan.
He said the city is not going in the right direction, and has changed since his move to Hamtramck in 1994.
Hassan moved from New York to Michigan to pursue his education. He holds a Bachelors of Science, with honors, and Masters in Mathematics from the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh.
Miah, a 10-year-resident of Hamtramck, works at National City Bank in Hamtramck. He ran for office to make local government more citizen-oriented, and to encourage the youth to run for public office.
Miah holds various board positions around Hamtramck, and is the founder of Bangladeshi American Youth Action. The youth group is focused on advancing in education, engaging in community service and having recreational activities for youth.
Miah said serving city council is his way of giving back. He said he was inspired to run for government by Sayu Bhojwani, founder of a similar youth group in New York.
Hassan said taxes, budget utilization and cutting salaries are on the top of his list.
He said everywhere in the world people are cutting salaries.
â€œIâ€™d like to cut salaries to survive,â€ he said.
Miah said the city will face tough times ahead with economy.
â€œThis city has been in a deep end before, as far as financial stability, but we can get out of it,â€ he said.
Hassan said spending money better and reassessing the budget will help the city.
Miah said his priorities include being a voice for the Census. Immigrant populations are often reluctant to fill out the forms, fearing the government will come after them. He wants to stop that trend.
The Census is correlated to taxes, government funds, and public safety, as police officers are assigned based on city populations, he said.
â€œWe have 20,000 Muslims, Bengalis, Yemenis. The Census doesnâ€™t tell us that,â€ Miah said.
He said higher numbers will make politicians pay attention.
Miahâ€™s website, www.voteforkazi.com, has a poll, asking for public opinions on local matters. He said he wants to be as accessible as possible, following the Obama campaign, where he served as Captain of the Voter Registration Drive.
â€œIâ€™m not trying to take anything away from Hamtramck. Iâ€™m trying to add to the richness this city has,â€ Miah said.
â€œIf we fail, weâ€™ll be failing as a whole.â€
Hassan said he is proud to be a Muslim city councilman.
â€œSome people questioned me because I was Muslim. This is not a Yemeni city, a Bangladeshi city, or a Polish city. This is the city of Hamtramck.â€
He said the city is his first priority, but he will not go against his religion.
â€œIâ€™m going to respect my religion 100 percent,â€ Hassan said.
He said Islam is the religion of peace. Itâ€™s always going to be good decisions for politics.
â€œOur prophet Muhammad (s) got respect from all religions. He helped everybody. Iâ€™m going to treat everyone equally.â€
Miah said Islam taught us to be good to your neighbors, not only Muslim neighbors. He said he wants to be a voice for everyone.
â€œThroughout the election no one asked me what religion I was. I sincerely believe citizens of Hamtramck just want to be taken care of,â€ Miah said.
Miah and Hassan are Bangadleshi Muslim Americans. They are married with two children.
Both said they are looking forward to working with the new council.