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An American muslim Saad Almasmari created history by becoming a Councilman at Hamtramck in Detroit area

While presidential candidates are trying to prevent Muslims from coming to this county, they are becoming majority in one of the cities, said Osama Siblani.

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HAMTRAMCK, MI - JANUARY 07: A pedestrian walks past the Islamic Center of Hamtramck on January 7, 2011 in Hamtramck, Michigan. The city of Hamtramck is considering filing for bankruptcy protection while it struggles to meet its financial obligations. If approved the bankruptcy filing would be the first for a city in the state of Michigan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Despite all the hoopla over tolerance versus intolerance, USA continues to be the land of freedom of speech, justice and multiculturalism. Hamtramck- a town in Detroit area elected its first Muslim-majority city council. A town that was predominantly Polish Catholic in 1970s is today a Muslim -majority place.

That was in the first week of November of 2015. We profile one of the new councilman, Saad Almasmari.

Winning the majority of votes in Hamtramck City Council, Saad Almasmari described his excitement and experience about the race to it. “I am a social guy, I like helping my community, my city” says Almasmari.

Among three American-Muslim candidates on the ballot, Yemen born Saad Almasmari was one of them. All three received the most votes in a town that has the largest percentages of foreign born citizens in Michigan. “This is the city that has distinguished itself among others that the majority of the people on the city council are Muslims” Osama Siblani, publisher of Arab American News. But this news made a bigger remark due to its timing. “While presidential candidates are trying to prevent Muslims from coming to this county, they are becoming majority in one of the cities. I think this is the news” he adds.

Hamtramck was unhappy to know Mr. Donald Trump’s statement to ban Muslims from coming to America. “We have about 27% of Yemenis in Hamtramck, 22% Bengalis and about 11% Brazilians who are all Muslims” says Almasmari. From a Polish Catholic auto workers’ settlement, to Muslim American shop owners and businesses Hamtramck has been a case study for changing demographics by recent immigration. “Yes, it has all been quite surprising, all these national and international attention” Karen Majewski, Mayor- Hamtramck.

Saad Almasmari winning the city council elections.
Saad Almasmari winning the city council elections. Image source Al Arab news

But this attention couldn’t last longer. When Almasmari attended his first general city council meeting in January, only two media organizations were present to record the moment.  “In the council, I am an American before I am a Muslim. One of the newspapers asked me if I was able to meet Mr Trump, would you? I said yes I have no issues in meeting him. And then three days later, I received an email from their campaign asking if I can meet him for like 15-20 mins.”

If he ever meets Mr. Trump, he wouldn’t talk about his faith, but helping Hamtramck which is in financial trouble and has highest poverty rates in the state of Michigan clears Saad Almasmari.

-by Vrushali Mahajan

Vrushali is pursuing her graduation in Journalism and is an intern at NewsGram. You can reach the author at twitter- Vrushali Mahajan 

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  • Bill Meyer

    please make correction in quote above: it’s Bangladeshis NOT Brazilians. Thank you

  • bandmom

    Where are any women in that picture? Probably where most Muslim women are – in a body bag out of sight and not visible in public.

Next Story

Facebook Assigns A Task Force For The Elections in India in 2019

Facebook said that India was an important market for Facebook and that it was strengthening the team in India to understand the local forms of hate speech.

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Fake News, Facebook
This photo shows the logo for Facebook on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. VOA

 Facing the uphill task of tackling election-related interference on its platform as India gets ready for polls next year, Facebook on Saturday said it is establishing a task force comprising “hundreds of people” in the country to prevent bad actors from abusing its platform.

“With the 2019 elections coming, we are pulling together a group of specialists to work together with political parties,” Richard Allan, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Policy Solutions, told the media here.

Facebook has also set a goal of bringing a transparency feature for political ads — now available in the US and Brazil — to India by March next year, Allan informed.

With the new ad architecture in place, people would be able to see who paid for a particular political ad.

Facebook, India
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

In May this year, Facebook announced that all election-related ads on Facebook and Instagram in the US must be clearly labelled — including a “Paid for by” disclosure from the advertiser at the top of the ad.

When users click on the label, they would be taken to an archive with more information such as the campaign budget associated with an individual ad and how many people saw it – including their age, location and gender, Facebook had said.

The social media giant later introduced the transparency feature in Brazil.

The introduction of the same feature in India would help users identify political propaganda easily.

“The task force for India will have security specialists and content specialists, among others, who will try to understand all the possible forms of election-related abuse in India,” added Allan during a workshop on Facebook’s “community standards” in the capital.

India
A gardener works on the lawns of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India. VOA

Allan explained that while the disinformation linked to real-world violence is checked by the team mandated to maintain Facebook’s community standards, other forms of disinformation are handled by a different team of fact checkers.

“The challenge for the task force in India would be to distinguish between real political news and political propaganda,” Allan noted, adding that the team would be very much based in the country and would consist of both existing human resources working on these issues within the company and new recruits.

Facebook came under intense scrutiny of policy makers in the US after allegations of Russia-linked accounts using the social networking platform to spread divisive messages during the 2016 presidential election surfaced.

Since then, it has stepped up efforts to check abuse of its platform by bringing in more transparency in the conduct of its businesses, including in advertisement policies.

India, BJP
Counting of Karnataka polls will be done on 15th May, VOA

Echoing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s earlier comments on elections across the world, Allan said the social media platform “wants to help countries around the world, including India, to conduct free and fair elections”.

In April, Zuckerberg said Facebook will ensure that its platform is not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere.

“Our goals are to understand Facebook’s impact on upcoming elections — like Brazil, India, Mexico and the US midterms — and to inform our future product and policy decisions,” he told US lawmakers during a hearing.

Facebook uses a combination of technology, including Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and reports from its community to identify violating content on the platform.

The reports are reviewed by members of its “Community Operations” team who review content in over 50 languages in the world, including 12 from India.

Facebook, India
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at a Facebook developers conference in San Jose, California. VOA

“By the end of 2018, we will have 20,000 people working on these issues, double the number we had at the same time last year,” he said.

“We are also working to enhance the work we do to proactively detect violating content,” Allan said.

Speaking at the 16th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here later in the day, Allan said Facebook was cooperating fully with the investigating agency (Central Bureau of Investigation) in India with regard to the Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal.

The British political consultancy firm was in the midst of a huge controversy for allegedly inappropriately harvesting data from about 87 million Facebook accounts.

Without giving details of the impact that the Cambridge Analytica scandal had on India, he said that the impact was probably limited and that most users in India need not worry that their data was stolen.

Also Read: Facebook Better Prepared to Defend Itself Against External Manipulation For The Elections

“Yes, we have a responsibility to keep data safe. We employ some of the best security engineers in the world. When we notice a breach, we let people know immediately,” Allan said at the summit.

“We are investing more and more in countries outside the US so that they can tell us how our services should be designed,” he said, adding that India was an important market for Facebook and that it was strengthening the team in India to understand the local forms of hate speech. (IANS)