A Michigan city considered to be the center of Arab America has finally elected its first Arab-American mayor.
Abdullah Hammoud, the son of Lebanese immigrants, was born and raised in Dearborn, where he was elected mayor on Tuesday. With the victory, he also becomes the city’s first Muslim mayor.
Dearborn is home to one of the largest Arab-American communities in the United States. Dearborn’s population is about 42% Arab, according to Census figures. But more recent surveys suggest the city could be more than half Arab.
Despite the city’s large Arab community, it has never been led by an Arab- or Muslim-American.
“It’s just a humbling experience. It’s humbling that in this town, people are willing to vote for someone based on the direction in which they lead, not in the direction in which they pray,” Hammoud, 31, told CNN. “It’s humbling because it shows that someone like me, who has a name like Abdullah Hussein Hammoud, doesn’t have to change or shy away from their identity to achieve success.”
Hammoud is serving his third term as state representative for Michigan’s 15th District, which includes Dearborn. He was first elected in 2016 and has since been re-elected twice.
He will take office as mayor in January.
“It is a huge deal for the Arab community in Michigan and nationwide,” Sally Howell, director of the Center for Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, told CNN. “The symbolic capital of Arab America, Dearborn, Michigan, finally has an Arab American mayor to speak on behalf of this unique population. Representation matters.”
Hammoud says he is ready to get to work and immediately begin tackling issues that affect his city, including climate change.
“There’s a clock on the wall, and there’s the question of when is the next heavy rain that’s going to set in that’s going to lead into the next catastrophic flooding, similar to what we experienced in the past summer when nearly 20,000 homes experienced some type of flooding,” Hammoud said.
“We have to immediately start adjusting the climate crisis by putting forth bold and innovative proposals,” he said.
Hammoud will also work to reduce taxes and assist residents in combating the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, according to his campaign website.
Hammoud says he hopes his win sends a message to Dearborn’s youth — especially those who are targeted because of their differences — that nothing is out of reach.
“Never shy away from who you are,” he said. “Be proud of your name, be comfortable in your identity, because it’ll take you places if you work hard, you’re passionate and you inspire people.”
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