Many Bangladeshi Americans are expected to vote against a fellow Bangladeshi in a closely contested mayoral election in Hamtramck, a small town near Detroit in Michigan.
Mohammed Hassan, a Bangladeshi American, is pitted against three-time incumbent Mayor Karen Majewski. If elected, he could become not just the first Muslim Mayor of Hamtramck but also the first person of Bangladeshi descent in the United States to reach this position.
Until about a few weeks ago, he rated his chances as 60-40 against Majewski but now he believes it’s going to be a much tighter race.
He claimed that regional and political loyalties carried over from Bangladesh are playing out in Hamtramck politics and could have an impact on his chances.
“I fear close to 40% of Bangladeshis in Hamtramck may not vote for me as there's a perception that I support Awami league and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Also I’m originally from Chittagong and that’s another factor,” he said.
He said he had met Prime Minister Hasina last year and that wasn't appreciated by many in the community.
Many in the Bangladeshi community in Hamtramck and nearby areas are supporters of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and they have expressed their support for Mayor Majeswki.
“What I can say with confidence is that 100 percent of Bangladeshi Hindus here will come out to vote for me,’’ he told the Bangla Tribune.
Hassan said he is now banking on people from the Yemeni community.
Hamtramck is a Muslim majority council, the first in the United States. Out of the six council members, three, including Hassan, are of Bangladeshi descent while one is of Yemeni origin. Also, nearly 45% of Hamtramck residents are immigrants and majority of those are from Yemen and Bangladesh.
“We have decided to knock at all doors as I will be representing all communities not just Bangladeshis,” he said, adding “There are many Yemeni ladies who are campaigning for me and if all of them come out on election day, I have a very strong chance.”
Hassan came to the United States in 1994 after doing a Masters from the University of Chittagong in Applied Mathematics and has worked in the auto industry since then.
He said politics is in his blood and he grew up watching his father contest and win the Union Parishad elections in Chandanaish, Chittagong.
“In Chittagong, I was elected as vice-president of the Ganit Samiti and it was a big deal then,’’ he added.
But now he has to fight Mayor Majewski, who is of polish descent, and was the first woman to be elected the Mayor of Hamtramck in 2005. She was re-elected in 2009 and then in 2013.
She has been supportive of diversity and also backed the Muslim community in the town when there was a huge uproar against allowing mosques to issue calls to prayer over loudspeakers five times a day. For this election, she has won the endorsement of the influential Arab American Political Action Committee.
The elections will be held on November 7 but the early voting has already begun.