Islam USA: Inside America’s only Muslim-majority city

by Veronica Coffin on December 1, 2015

I don’t care about what kind of sob stories are being told at the end of this article.  This should NEVER have been allowed to happen in America!  What these people are doing is entirely anti-American.  They are instituting sharia law and have been given a strong foothold within America’s borders.  As they used to say, “give them an inch and they will take a mile”. –VC

Submitted by:  Veronica Coffin

Islam USA: Inside America’s only Muslim-majority city, where the call to prayer echoes in the streets – and Syrian refugees are welcomed in defiance of the governor

  • Hamtramck, Michigan, is officially the only city in America where Muslims form a majority after immigration from Bangladesh, Yemen and Bosnia
  • It is now welcoming Syrian refugees despite the Michigan governor wanting none in his state 
  • One new arrival tells Daily Mail Online: ‘There is a mosque on the corner, most of the people speak our language. This place feels like home.’ 
  • Latest census figures put Arabic population at 23 percent, Bangladeshi at 19 percent, Bosnians and other Muslims at around nine percent

The rest of America may be agonizing over the security implications of taking in those fleeing the twin horrors of Bashar al-Assad and ISIS.

But Syrian refugees are being welcomed with open arms in Hamtramck, Michigan – America’s first and only majority Muslim city.

Once 90 percent Polish Catholic, the blue-collar enclave just outside Detroit has been transformed by successive waves of immigrants from Bangladesh, Yemen and Bosnia.

Muslims now outnumber non-Muslims, the council has a Muslim majority and the call to prayer echoes through the streets five times a day.

Majority: Welcome to Hamtramck, Michigan, where Muslims make up 50 per cent of the population and the sight of women wearing the niqab - the veil leaving only the eyes visible - is not unusual. The mural to the left is in celebration of the city's Yemeni population

Majority: Welcome to Hamtramck, Michigan, where Muslims make up 50 per cent of the population and the sight of women wearing the niqab – the veil leaving only the eyes visible – is not unusual. The mural to the left is in celebration of the city’s Yemeni population

Devout: The call to prayer is held five times a day, from just before dawn until dusk, in the city, where Muslims make up 51 per cent of the population

Devout: The call to prayer is held five times a day, from just before dawn until dusk, in the city, where Muslims make up 51 per cent of the population

Change of cultures: With snow on the streets already weather conditions could not be much more different from the warm countries including Bangladesh and Yemen where many residents' roots lie

Change of cultures: With snow on the streets already weather conditions could not be much more different from the warm countries including Bangladesh and Yemen where many residents’ roots lie

Two worlds: The mosque - masjid is a transliteration of the Arabic for mosque - is in the shadow of St Ladisuaus Catholic Church's steeple, reflecting the town's previous status as 'Little Warsaw'

Two worlds: The mosque – masjid is a transliteration of the Arabic for mosque – is in the shadow of St Ladisuaus Catholic Church’s steeple, reflecting the town’s previous status as ‘Little Warsaw’

Roots: Pope Park, in Hamtramck has a statue and portrait of Pope John Paul II, in honor of the Wadowice-born pontiff, the first Pole to become leader of the Catholic Church

Roots: Pope Park, in Hamtramck has a statue and portrait of Pope John Paul II, in honor of the Wadowice-born pontiff, the first Pole to become leader of the Catholic Church

Catering: The Yemen Islamic Market reflects the demands of a city where a majority of people are Muslim 

Catering: The Yemen Islamic Market reflects the demands of a city where a majority of people are Muslim

The latest additions to the burgeoning ethnic mix are 33 Syrians, all Muslim families with young children who fled their country’s brutal civil war.

Their arrival comes amid a national debate over the risk of letting in refugees who could be secret ISIS jihadists plotting Paris-style terror attacks. GOP figures like Donald Trump and Ben Carson want tougher monitoring of Muslims, while Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was the first of 31 governors who vowed last week to stop more Syrians coming to their states.

Officials in Hamtramck, aptly nicknamed the ‘The World Within Two Square Miles’ and home to 22,000 people, insist the fears are overblown – and say their doors remain open.

Thaer Hoshan, 40, fled Syria in 2012 with his pregnant wife Dalal, 37, and their five children, Shouk, 13, Shahed, 12, Rania, 10, Fadi, nine, and four-year-old Abdul-Hadi.

Thaer said his southern hometown of Daraa was one of the first to come under siege from Assad’s forces, who would shell civilians and burst into homes to slaughter men and rape women.

Without running water, power or access to schools, they escaped into Jordan where they say the UN put them through a 19-month vetting process before they could move to the US in August.

Once here, they were amazed to find many of the comforts and customs they enjoyed in the Middle East, from Arabic-speaking neighbors to bustling halal restaurants and shops stocked with Islamic gifts and fashion.

‘Coming to the US was very nerve-racking. I had never heard of Michigan, let alone Hamtramck,’ Thaer told Daily Mail Online, through an interpreter.

‘I had no idea what to expect but once I got here I was surprised at how comfortable it felt. There is a mosque on the corner, most of the people speak our language. This place feels like home.’

Everyday America: The street could be in any northern city, except perhaps for the presence of a mosque, which has signs in Arabic and Bengali, spoken by Bangladeshis

Everyday America: The street could be in any northern city, except perhaps for the presence of a mosque, which has signs in Arabic and Bengali, spoken by Bangladeshis

Covered: Many women in the city cover their heads, following Islamic tradition. 

Covered: Many women in the city cover their heads, following Islamic tradition.

Cultural contrast: A woman in the niqab walks past the Polish market in the city's downtown. The black full-face veil is usually associated with the Arabian peninsula, although its use has spread beyond there in recent decades

Cultural contrast: A woman in the niqab walks past the Polish market in the city’s downtown. The black full-face veil is usually associated with the Arabian peninsula, although its use has spread beyond there in recent decades

Different tastes: The New Palace Bakery boasts of its Polish and European baked goods, and dispatches them across the US

Different tastes: The New Palace Bakery boasts of its Polish and European baked goods, and dispatches them across the US

Worship: The city has different mosques, reflecting the different groups who make up its Muslim majority. The biggest single ethnic group in the city is Arab-Americans, which is growing with arrivals from Syria

Worship: The city has different mosques, reflecting the different groups who make up its Muslim majority. The biggest single ethnic group in the city is Arab-Americans, which is growing with arrivals from Syria

Thaer, a farmer and construction worker in his homeland, insists he had never even heard about ISIS or their barbaric crimes until he had fled Syria.

‘We are not a threat to anyone,’ he added. ‘They did interviews and medical tests. The security checks alone took a month.

‘The only person I would like to see dead is Assad. As for killing others, Islam is totally against it.’

The Hoshans’ $500-a-month rented apartment is within yards of one of Hamtramck’s four mosques and just off Joseph Campau Avenue, the city’s main strip once dubbed ‘Little Warsaw’.

It is now home to an assortment of Bengali restaurants, food markets and boutiques selling sequined Muslim gowns, headscarves and veils including the niqab, which covers everything but the eyes.

HAMTRAMCK’S PEOPLE 

Arab: 23 per cent

Bangladeshi: 19 per cent

Bosnian, other Muslim: nine per cent

Muslim total: 51 per cent 

Polish: 11 per cent

Source: Census 2010

A nearby sausage factory, Polish arts center and a statue of Pope John Paul II all hark back to the 1970s when working class Polish Catholics last dominated Hamtramck.

But as their community became more affluent and moved away, the vacant homes were snapped up by Yemeni and Bangladeshi Americans, with a further influx of Bosnian refugees coming after the Yugoslav wars.

Latest census figures put the Arabic population at 23 percent, the Bangladeshis at 19 percent, and the Bosnians and other Muslims at around nine percent – a Muslim majority of 51 percent.

The Polish community, meanwhile, has dwindled to a mere 11 percent.

Religious and ethnic grievances came to the fore in 2004 when the city council controversially gave local mosques the green light to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer via loudspeaker.

Tensions simmered again this month when Saad Almasmari, 28, from Yemen, ran for council and became aware of a flyer circulating among voters, which read: ‘Let’s get the Muslims out of Hamtramck on November 3rd. Let’s take back our city.’

Elsewhere, a poster featuring the face of another Muslim candidate was reportedly defaced with a swastika and the words ‘don’t vote’.

But for all the protests and accusations, Mr Almasmari swept to victory, securing more votes than any other candidate to become the fourth Muslim on the sixth-member council – now America’s first majority Muslim jurisdiction.

Welcome arrivals: Samir Alrchdan, 55, center, his wife, Enter, center left, and children (from left) Morad, 20, Marmen, 15, Mjed, 15, Motaz, 9, Maen, and Moath, 13. They left Syria because of its violence

Welcome arrivals: Samir Alrchdan, 55, center, his wife, Enter, center left, and children (from left) Morad, 20, Marmen, 15, Mjed, 15, Motaz, 9, Maen, and Moath, 13. They left Syria because of its violence

Majority rule: Saad Almasmair, 28, will be sworn in next month as a member of the city council. It has six members and he will be its fourth Muslim

Majority rule: Saad Almasmair, 28, will be sworn in next month as a member of the city council. It has six members and he will be its fourth Muslim

Defying the governor: City mayor Karen Majewski tells Daily Mail Online: 'There is no quota on how many different ethnicities are welcome.  People aren't worried about being blown up on the street corner.'

Defying the governor: City mayor Karen Majewski tells Daily Mail Online: ‘There is no quota on how many different ethnicities are welcome. People aren’t worried about being blown up on the street corner.’

‘I knocked 3,800 doors during my campaign and spoke to Polish people, old and young,’ he told Daily Mail Online. ‘A lot of them voted for me. Nobody said anything negative to my face.’

There are also dozens more smaller communities and ethnicities vying for space in Hamtramck, as demonstrated by the 27 languages spoken across its schools.

A ride through town is akin to a global culinary tour, taking in traditional Polish cafes, Yemeni hookah bars, Chinese restaurants and the Ali-Baba Shish Kabob restaurant – owned by Iraqi Catholics.

‘In the 1930s we had 60,000 people living in Hamtramck and there are now around 25,000,’ said Mayor Karen Majewski. ‘So we certainly have room.

‘And believe it or not, we actually had around 50 languages spoken back then. So diversity is nothing view, we just have a different breakdown.

‘There is no quota on how many different ethnicities are welcome. There are people who are concerned about the change in culture, and that’s a normal fear.

‘But it’s got nothing to do with terrorism. People aren’t worried about being blown up on the street corner.’

American dream: Yemeni -American Husain Hizam, who runs a shop called VIP Clothing but actually sells everything from Islamic artwork to rugs and curtains. His father Mohamed came to the US from Yemen in the 1970s. 'He worked hard, he showed us the American Way,' said Husain.

American dream: Yemeni -American Husain Hizam, who runs a shop called VIP Clothing but actually sells everything from Islamic artwork to rugs and curtains. His father Mohamed came to the US from Yemen in the 1970s. ‘He worked hard, he showed us the American Way,’ said Husain.

Taste of the old world: Village Cafe, a popular Polish restaurant caters to more than just the Polish community in the city 

Taste of the old world: Village Cafe, a popular Polish restaurant caters to more than just the Polish community in the city

Tension: Barbara Zielinska, 60, is unsettled by groups of young Arab men congregating late at night. 'We have an invasion of Muslims here now,' she said. 'I'm not afraid to say what needs to be said. '

Tension: Barbara Zielinska, 60, is unsettled by groups of young Arab men congregating late at night. ‘We have an invasion of Muslims here now,’ she said. ‘I’m not afraid to say what needs to be said. ‘

Effects: Bernice Kurzawa, 84, said she felt a loss of community spirirt. 'People here used to be fanatical about looking after their homes, shoveling the snow, cutting the grass, that sort of thing. They are all renters now, they don't care. Some of the women wear outfits where you can only see the eyes. The shops are all shutting because the Arabs eat their own food.'

Effects: Bernice Kurzawa, 84, said she felt a loss of community spirirt. ‘People here used to be fanatical about looking after their homes, shoveling the snow, cutting the grass, that sort of thing. They are all renters now, they don’t care. Some of the women wear outfits where you can only see the eyes. The shops are all shutting because the Arabs eat their own food.’

The Hoshans and the five other Syrian families were brought to the US by the Syrian American Rescue Network and offered their first month’s accommodation for free by a Syrian-American businessman, Bashar Imam, 53.

He has already helped many of the men find local constructions jobs and school places for their children.

Mr Imam’s new tenants include a father of 13, Samir Alrchdan, who lost two nephews to Assad’s aerial barrages – one killed as he awaited the results of his high school diploma and the other fatally injured when a bomb dropped on his university.

‘We owe it to these people to ensure they don’t suffer a minute longer,’ said Mr Imam, an engineer who came to the US from Damascus nearly 40 years ago.

‘When I heard they were coming here I took one of my vacant properties off the market just to make more room for them.

‘These guys are not terrorists, they don’t want money – they want opportunity. And who are we to close the door on them? Who is Donald Trump to close the door on them?’

For all the undoubted goodwill, however, some of Hamtramck’s white, non-Muslim community remain suspicious of what they call a ‘Sharia takeover’ or a ‘Muslim invasion’.

Residents, particularly senior citizens, have complained bitterly about being woken up each day by the 6am call to prayer.

THE NEW ARRIVALS: ‘WHEN I SAID WE WERE GOING TO THE US, PEOPLE SAID I WAS HALLUCINATING.’

Farmer Thaer Hoshan enjoyed a comfortable middle-class life in the southern Syrian city of Daraa until violence erupted in 2011. 

When he heard reports of President Assad’s troops rampaging through nearby villages to quell the uprising, he started to plan for the worst. 

‘They started storming homes,’ recalled Thaer, 40. ‘First they were seeking wanted people and weapons.

‘Then there were no exceptions. If they looked for a man and they couldn’t find that man they would rape the women.

‘You knew you were going to die, it was just a question of how and when. 

‘When the shelling became indiscriminate life ceased to exist. The city became a ghost town. There was no work, no schools, no power and no power to keep the water pumping.’

Syrian refugee Thaer Hoshan, top left, his wife, Wia Dalal, top right, and children Rania, 10, Shoq, 13, Fadi, 9, Abdul-Hady, 4, and Shsad, 12

Syrian refugee Thaer Hoshan, top left, his wife, Wia Dalal, top right, and children Rania, 10, Shoq, 13, Fadi, 9, Abdul-Hady, 4, and Shsad, 12

What they left: The Hoshans are from Daraa. This week Russia carried out air strikes in the nearby city of Nawa, activists said

What they left: The Hoshans are from Daraa. This week Russia carried out air strikes in the nearby city of Nawa, activists said

In the summer of 2102 Thaer fled to a safe-house close to the Jordanian border with his wife Dalal, 37, and their five children, Shouk, 13, Shahed, 12, Rania, 10, Fadi, nine, and four-year-old Abdul-Hadi. 

Under cover of darkness they made the perilous four-hour trek across the border by foot before surrendering to Jordanian soldiers.

Their immediate destination was a crowded refugee camp but when it proved dusty, dangerous and inhospitable, Thaer bribed a guard to release them. 

He managed to find work and rent an apartment in the city of Irbid but eight months later authorities caught up with him and banned him from working. 

Facing the daily threat of expulsion, the Hoshams turned to the UN for help and were offered a move to a list of European countries. 

After three interviews they were given a place, not in Europe, but in the US. 

The move took a further 19 months to materialize before the family finally set off in late July.

‘When I told people I was going to the US they said I was hallucinating,’ joked Thaer. 

‘To be honest I would have taken my family to Mars rather than leave them in Jordan.

‘My children could not get an education there. Now they are assimilating well in the US and getting A’s and B’s at school – soon I expect straight As.’

Others accuses Muslims landlords of letting vacant properties fall into disrepair or renting out properties while doing little to maintain them.

‘People here used to be fanatical about looking after their homes, shoveling the snow, cutting the grass, that sort of thing’ said Bernice Kurzawa, 84, who has called Hamtramck home for the past six decades.

‘They are all renters now, they don’t care. Some of the women wear outfits where you can only see the eyes. The shops are all shutting because the Arabs eat their own food.’

Barbara Zielinska, 60, is unsettled by groups of young Arab men congregating late at night.

‘We have an invasion of Muslims here now,’ she said. ‘I’m not afraid to say what needs to be said.

‘They buy the houses, they take all the parking, they are very loud. My neighbors have late night meetings all the time with big groups of Muslim men who come from out of state.

‘They could be plotting something and I don’t know if I should report it to the police. A lot of them seem to live off benefits and not work.’

That last accusation irritates Husain Hizam, 45, who runs a shop called VIP Clothing but actually sells everything from Islamic artwork to rugs and curtains.

His father Mohamed came to the US from Yemen in the 1970s and worked as an assemblyman at a Chrysler car plant in Detroit for 30 years.

‘He worked hard, he showed us the American Way,’ said Husain. ‘This is a country of chances, the more you work the more you earn.’

Mr Hizam said his customers included both Muslims and non-Muslims, with Polish women particularly drawn to his ornate, bejeweled evening dresses.

‘I don’t value one type of customer over another,’ he said. ‘If I did I would go out of business. What we see on the TV and the things happening in Paris, it worries me.

‘But we all get along here. One neighbor is Polish, the other is Vietnamese – we are like one big family.’

THE NEW ARRIVALS: HOW FATHER OF NINE FLED WITH HIS KIDS – AND IS GRATEFUL TO THE US 

Samir Alrchdan (right) was known among his friends as a big-hearted Syrian with an even bigger family. 

Before fighting broke out close to Aleppo, Samir, 55, he was a master carpenter with a thriving furniture-making business with 13 employees. 

But when the violence drew closer he decided to leave his relatives in charge of his workshop and flee for the sake of his wife Entesar, 35, and their nine children aged between nine and 20. 

‘The soldiers were raiding and raping. They behaved like animals,’ said Samir, who has four more adult children living across the Arab World.

The massive family were able to reach a refugee camp and would eventually secure a future in Michigan, thanks to the UN and the Syrian American Rescue Network.

However many of Samir’s relations remained in Syria and paid a terrible price as Aleppo became the scene of savage fighting between Assad’s forces and various rebel factions.

‘One of my nephews, Ayham, was studying at the University in Aleppo,’ said Samir.

Aleppo now: An aistrike reportedly by Assad's government forces near the Aleppo Citadel, the center of the city, earlier this month

Aleppo now: An aistrike reportedly by Assad’s government forces near the Aleppo Citadel, the center of the city, earlier this month

‘He had just finished his final exam when an aircraft dropped a bomb on it. He was killed on the spot.

‘Another nephew, Osama, was waiting for the results of his high school diploma when he was killed in a bombing raid. He was taken to Jordan but did not survive.’

Samir is overjoyed to have reached Hamtramck where his children have the opportunity to better themselves and their human rights are respected.

His family have settled quickly, largely thanks to friendliness of their Arabic-speaking neighbors.

‘I love the United States. I love Hamtramck,’ said Samir. ‘I feel at home with the culture and the language. I feel safe here.

‘When my children go to school they do not stand out because their faces are different.’  

 

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