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DEARBORN, United States: The election of Abdullah Hammoud as Dearborn’s first Muslim mayor was a watershed moment for the city, the largest Arab-American auto manufacturing center in the United States.
But while he initially focused on improving sewer infrastructure and investing in parks, he has now found himself in the national spotlight for his outspoken criticism of Democrat Joe Biden over the president’s support for Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
“I will be the first to say that we do not want (Donald) Trump to be re-elected to the White House,” Hammoud told AFP in an interview. “But people want to be inspired to come out.”
Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit known as the birthplace of Henry Ford and home to the headquarters of the Ford Motor Company, has a population of about 110,000, 55 percent of whom claim to be of Middle Eastern or North African heritage.
In 2020, Dearborn voters overwhelmingly supported Biden, and their vote could tip the scales in Michigan — a crucial 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 seeking to promote the Muslim vote.
Since then, he has helped spark a movement that registered more than 100,000 voters as “engaged” in Michigan’s Democratic primary in protest of Biden’s policies on Israel, and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein asked him if he would be her running mate.
Hammoud, who will not reach his constitutional age of 35 until next March, was too young to accept the role, although he said the offer was “very humiliating”.
Also, he is still not sure how to cast his vote.
“I would say that no presidential candidate has earned my vote,” the father of two said, urging both parties to pay attention to the growing public disapproval of Israel’s actions.
“If you look at all the polling data that’s coming out across the country, coast to coast, the issues that we’ve been advocating for, that we’re fighting for … are issues that the people support.”
These demands include a permanent cease-fire that provides safe harbor for all hostages and prisoners, unfettered access to humanitarian aid, and an end to arms shipments to Israel.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Hammoud grew up in a “working poor” blue-collar family. His father drove a truck, while his mother’s father worked in an assembly line at a car factory.
He was attracted to the Democratic Party for his support of the labor movement and equally repelled by Republicans, who he says have “demonized Arab Americans, Muslim Americans and other people of color.”
Hammoud’s first dream was to become a doctor, but he couldn’t make the grades. Instead, he trained as an epidemiologist and began climbing the corporate ladder as a health manager.
But the sudden death of her beloved brother — the second of Hammoud’s five children — prompted her to reassess her priorities, and in 2016 she won election to the state legislature.
Then in 2022, he became the second of a trio of new Muslim mayors in the southeast Michigan cities of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Hamtramck.
Hammoud immediately set about righting historical wrongs.
The city has had a reputation for racism for decades, exemplified by former mayor Orville Hubbard’s openly segregationist policies.
Hammoud appointed the city’s first Arab-American police chief, resulting in a drastic drop in tickets issued to black drivers within a year, according to his spokesman.
Until the war in Gaza, which was triggered by attacks by Hamas and the October 7, 2023 hostage-taking, Hammoud considered Biden a “transformational” president, but now believes that “genocide outweighs the impact of this domestic policy.”
Hammoud sidestepped the question of whether he might end up endorsing Biden under the right circumstances, stressing that whatever he says, it is too late for some of his constituents, who have lost dozens of relatives to Israeli bombs.
He has no doubt that Trump, who ordered a Muslim travel ban while in office, would be a total disaster — citing Republicans arming Saudi Arabia against Yemen, supporting Israeli settlements in the West Bank and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
But Hammoud balks at suggestions that members of his community are to blame for paving the way for Trump’s return by refusing to endorse Biden.
Asked how he would respond to this criticism, Hammoud said: “The question should be asked of President Joe Biden – what will he do to prevent Trump from being re-elected this November? What will you do to prevent the unraveling of American democracy and the fabric of our society?”

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