Amer Ghalib Interview

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Gavin Moulton
Director, External Affairs


For Arab American Heritage Month, MEPC is highlighting Arab American voices making a difference in the policy world. Amer Ghalib is the mayor of Hamtramck, Michigan and the first Yemeni American mayor elected in the United States. Hamtramck, located outside of Detroit, is the country’s first Muslim-majority city and in November 2021, made history by electing an all-Muslim city council. MEPC discusses Ghalib’s journey from working in an automobile factory to medical school and finally to city hall, as well as what his election means for the Arab American community.

1. Hamtramck was the first city in the US to elect an all-Muslim city council. What message do you hope your election sends to American Muslims interested in running for political office?

The message is that the doors of opportunity are open for everyone and Muslims should break the wall of fear and step up for public offices in local, state and federal governments.

2. With vibrant Polish, Yemeni and Bangladeshi communities, what can other cities learn from Hamtramck on promoting cultural pluralism?

Diversity is the core strength in our city. It should not be a reason for division, rather a fundamental pillar of unity. We learned how to accept each other and tolerate our differences.

3. What is the top priority for your term as mayor?

My top priority is to gain the trust of the people, strengthen our unity and promote our diversity. As a result of that, we call all work together to solve our long-standing issues such as the budget shortfall and aging infrastructure.

4. Could you speak about your emigration from Yemen and path to Hamtramck?

I came to the U.S. when I was seventeen. I started working a full-time job in a factory for automobile parts and went back to high school at the same time while working. I was able to finish my last year of high school in Hamtramck High School and then went to college. Enrolled in the pre-medicine route, I finished my bachelors’ degree in Biological Science in x Then, I went to Ross University School of Medicine and completed my four years of medical school. I worked as a healthcare professional in Hamtramck Medical Group in the same city that I’m the mayor of now. I ran for the mayor position after years of serving people in the medical field and building relationships with the community and went on to win with a landslide victory against an incumbent mayor.

5. Did your experience as an immigrant shape your political campaign? Do you believe that the precedent you have set with your election will continue to expand representation of the diaspora population within American politics?

Yes, I focused on promoting diversity, resisting xenophobia and racism, respecting differences and accepting others regardless of their backgrounds. I believe it will encourage other immigrants with a similar background to be more involved in politics and public affairs.

6. Given your background as a healthcare worker, what motivated you to run for mayor and become involved in politics?

I actually wanted to study political science right after high school, but I changed my mind in order to secure a job in the healthcare industry, and that’s why I went to medical school; I also have a degree in nursing science and in biological science as well. During all those years, I was involved in politics, both domestic and international. I waited for the opportunity to run for public office in order to represent our community in a better way. I wasn’t happy with the way our community was represented in city hall, and so I decided to run.

7. Arab American Heritage Month aims to promote Arab culture and history. Do you have a favorite Yemeni cultural tradition?

Yemeni Coffee (Mocha), named after the city of Mocha in Yemen, is very unique. I also appreciate Yemeni food, dance and traditional clothing.

8. What is the most rewarding aspect of serving as mayor?

As a community leader, I am in a position where I can serve my community and improve our residents’ lives. I can build relationships and have the ability to deliver a message from the position of power as mayor.

9. Do you have any future political plans?

As of now, I will work hard to succeed as mayor and then the next step will be decided based on how things go by the end of my first term.

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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