Betrayed by Diversity? Pride Flags Banned in First Muslim-Majority US City

When the city of Hamtramck in Michigan elected the first Muslim-majority city council in the United States in 2015, many liberals celebrated not just because of the international attention it gathered but because it demonstrated the strength in diversity and showed a strong response to the Islamophobic rhetoric that was then central to the presidential campaign of Republican candidate Donald Trump.

But eight years later, many of those same liberals expressed their dismay when the same Muslim-majority and socially conservative city council they elected voted to ban Pride flags from being displayed on city property, which comes at a time when Pride month is being celebrated this June, all while LGBTQIA+ rights in the United States are becoming increasingly under threat.

There’s a sense of betrayal,” Karen Majewski, a Polish American who previously served as the Mayor of Hamtramck, said regarding the legislation. “We supported you when you were threatened, and now our rights are threatened, and you’re the one doing the threatening,” she added, referring to the Muslim council members and Muslims who supported the ban.

While many liberal residents of Hamtramck were disappointed, Muslim residents celebrated the passage of the legislation, with one social media post even saying “Fagless City” with emojis of a biceps flexing.

Mohammed Hassan, one of the Muslim members of the Hamtramck city council, shouted his justification for the vote during a rather tense monologue before the vote, saying, “I’m working for the people, what the majority of the people like.

The city was often viewed as a bastion of multiculturalism, not just in Michigan but in the United States as well. But following the 2015 election, governing and living among neighbors and residents with different cultural values became anything but easy, and various groups in Hamtramck often clashed over specific policies and the city's overall direction.

Even though the situation in Hamtramck was caused by its own local dynamics, some right-wing provocateurs connected to national Republican groups from the nearby city of Dearborn and other places outside the city took advantage of the situation, voicing support for the legislation on the city’s social media pages.

The talking points of Hamtramck’s Muslim politicians and their supporters regarding homosexuality mirrors those made by white, conservative Christians. Some Muslim city residents say they only want to protect their children, and LGBTQIA+ individuals should “keep it in their home.

But for Gracie Cadieux, a queer resident who is also a member of the Anti-Transphobic Action group, this sentiment is nothing more but “an erasure of the queer community and an attempt to shove queer people back in the closet.

In response to the criticism of the legislation, the incumbent Mayor Amer Ghalib said he is trying his best to govern fairly for everyone but added that LGBTQIA+ individuals and their supporters stoked tensions by “forcing their agendas on others,” another talking point that mirrors those of white, conservative, Republican Christians.

Nevertheless, Planet Ant, a nonprofit theater organization, plans to launch Alphabet Festival to support the LGBTQIA+ community in Hamtramck in response to the Pride flag ban legislation, which also banned flags with ethnic, political, or racist views from being flown on city property.

Despite the rising tensions between socially conservative Muslims and liberal residents of Hamtramck, Mayor Ghalib hopes that the city will live up to its multicultural ideals, saying, "We can get along, and people are not violent here.

Cadieux agreed that coexistence between different groups in Hamtramck is still possible.

We aren’t in the business of excluding people from our society, and I’m not going to exclude socially conservative Muslims – they have a place at the table just like everyone else,” Cadieux said. “However, they cannot, and will not, shove another community out of the way.

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