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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, a center for auto manufacturing and home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the United States.
But while his early focus was on improving sewer infrastructure and investing in parks, he has now been thrust into the public spotlight by his outspoken criticism of fellow 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 get 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 Middle Eastern or North African heritage.
In 2020, Dearborn voters overwhelmingly backed Biden and their ballots could tip the scales in Michigan — a key swing state that could ultimately decide the winner of the White House in November’s election.
Hamoud’s profile rose in January after he declined an invitation to meet with Biden campaign officials in a bid to shore up the Muslim vote.
Since then, he has helped launch a movement in which over 100,000 voters marked “not committed” in the Michigan Democratic primary to protest Biden’s Israel policy, and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein asked him if he would be her running mate.
Hammoud, who will not meet the constitutional requirement of turning 35 until next March, was too young to accept the role, although he said the offer was “very humiliating”.
Besides, he is still not sure how he will 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 standing up for, fighting for … are issues that have popular support.”
These demands include a permanent cease-fire as a way to provide 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” family. His father drove a truck while his mother’s father worked on the assembly line at a car factory.
He was drawn to the Democratic Party because of its support for the labor movement, and equally repelled by Republicans, who he says have a history of “demonizing Arab Americans, Muslim Americans and other people of color.”
Hamud’s first dream was to become a doctor, but he couldn’t get the grades. Instead, he trained as an epidemiologist and began climbing the corporate ladder as a healthcare 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 the state parliamentary elections.
Then in 2022, he became the second of a trio of new Muslim mayors in the southeastern Michigan cities of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and Hamtramck.
Hamud immediately set about correcting historical mistakes.
For decades, the city was marred by a reputation for racism, exemplified by former mayor Orville Hubbard’s overt segregationist policies.
Hammoud appointed the city’s first Arab-American police chief, which led to a dramatic drop in tickets issued to black drivers within a year, his spokesman said.
Until the Gaza war, sparked by Hamas attacks and the October 7, 2023 hostage-taking, Hammoud considered Biden a “transformative” president, but now believes that “genocide outweighs the impact of those domestic policies.”
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 in Israeli bombings.
He has no doubt that Trump, who imposed a travel ban on Muslims during his tenure, would be a total disaster — citing Republican arming of Saudi Arabia against Yemen, support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.
But Hammoud pushed back against suggestions that members of his community were to blame for potentially paving the way for Trump’s return by withholding their support for Biden.
Asked how he would respond to these criticisms, Hammoud said: “The question should be asked of President Joe Biden — what is he going to do to prevent Trump from being re-elected this November?” What will he do to prevent the unraveling of American democracy and the fabric of our society?”

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