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DEARBORN, United States: The election of Abdullah Hammoud as Dearborn’s first Muslim mayor was a watershed moment for this city, an auto manufacturing center that is home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the United States.
But while he initially focused on upgrading sewage infrastructure and investing in parks, he is now in the national spotlight for his outspoken criticism of fellow Democrat Joe Biden over the president’s support for Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
“I’ll be the first to say we don’t want (Donald) Trump re-elected to the White House,” Hammoud told AFP in an interview. “But people want inspiration to get out.”
Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit famous for being the birthplace of Henry Ford and the headquarters of the Ford Motor Company, has a population of about 110,000, 55 percent of whom claim Middle Eastern or North African heritage.
Dearborn voters overwhelmingly supported Biden in 2020, and their votes could tip the scales in Michigan, a key swing state that could ultimately decide the winner of the White House in November’s election.
Hammoud’s profile rose in January after he declined an invitation to meet with Biden campaign officials who wanted to amplify Muslim voices.
He has since helped galvanize a movement in which more than 100,000 voters marked “uncommitted” in Michigan’s Democratic primary to protest Biden’s Israel policies, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein asked him if he would be her running mate.
Hammoud, who will not meet the constitutional requirement to turn 35 until March next year, was too young to take on the role, although he said the offer was “very humbling.”
Plus, he’s not sure how he’s going to cast his vote.
“I would say that no presidential candidate deserves my vote,” the father of two said, urging both sides to pay attention to growing public disapproval of Israel’s actions.
“If you look at all the polling data that’s coming out across the country, from coast to coast, the issues that we stand for and fight for… have public support.”
These demands include a permanent ceasefire as a means of providing a safe haven for all hostages and prisoners, unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, and an end to arms shipments to Israel.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Hammoud grew up in a “working poor” working-class family. His father drove a truck while his mother’s father worked on the assembly line in a car factory.
He was drawn to the Democratic Party because of its support for the labor movement, while at the same time repelled by Republicans, who he believes have a history of “demonizing Arab Americans, Muslim Americans and other people of color.”
Hammoud’s first dream was to become a doctor, but he failed to obtain the appropriate grades. Instead, he trained as an epidemiologist and began climbing the corporate ladder as a health care executive.
But the sudden death of his beloved older brother – Hammoud was the second of five children – forced him to reassess his priorities, and in 2016 he won election to the state legislature.
Then in 2022, he became the second of three new Muslim mayors of the southeastern Michigan cities of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Hamtramck.
Hammoud immediately set about righting historical wrongs.
For decades, the city was plagued by a reputation for racism, exemplified by the openly segregationist policies of former Mayor Orville Hubbard.
According to his spokesman, Hammoud appointed the city’s first Arab-American police chief, which led to a drastic drop in the number of tickets issued to black drivers within a year.
Until the Gaza war sparked by Hamas attacks and hostage-taking on October 7, 2023, Hammoud considered Biden a “transformational” president, but now believes that “genocide outweighs the impact of these domestic policies.”
Hammoud sidesteps the question of whether he could ultimately support Biden under the right circumstances, emphasizing that whatever he says is already too late for some of his voters who have lost dozens of relatives to Israeli bombs.
There is no doubt that Trump imposing a travel ban on Muslims during his term would be an unmitigated disaster – citing Republicans’ arming of Saudi Arabia against Yemen, support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.
But Hammoud balks at suggestions that members of his community are guilty of potentially paving the way for Trump’s return by withholding support for Biden.
Asked how he would respond to the criticism, Hammoud said: “The question has to be asked of President Joe Biden – what will he do to prevent Trump from being re-elected this November? What will he do to prevent the disintegration of American democracy and the fabric of our society?”

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