For the month of December, I had the pleasure of interviewing State Representative Abdullah Hammoud (D-15). Representative Hammoud’s district comprises of Dearborn, the city he grew up in. I had a pleasant conversation with Representative Hammoud, and I learned about his passion for bringing change into his communities.
Q: What led you to run for office at such a young age?
A: I worked in healthcare and environmental policy for [a number of] years, and at that point I was looking for something new and something different. I missed being active and engaged in my communities… so I just went for it.
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced while running?
A: In the Arab American community there is a cultural stigma about being young and running for office, [there is] a “wait your turn” mentality, so that is something we had to overcome in that community. Overall, [there was] the mentality of xenophobia and Islamophobia that we also had to work on.
Q: You mentioned that you previously worked in healthcare, what exactly did you do?
A: I’m an epidemiologist and biostatistician by training, [and I] have my Master’s in public health. [I also] worked with the United Nations in the country of Jordan where I worked in Palestinian refugee camps. After that program was successful I got my job as a senior strategy advisor for the Henry Ford Health System.
Q: Do you believe your previous profession is helping you now as a legislator?
A: Certainly. I sit on the health policy committee, and I’m one of the few legislators with a health policy background, so it’s certainly applicable.
Q: How do you feel about being the only Muslim State Representative in Lansing?
A: I didn’t think I would notice it as much, but I notice it. For many of my colleagues I’m the first Muslim they’ve ever met. I’ve made it a mission to try to get all of my colleagues to the city of Dearborn… I will engage them in the conversation, try to educate them where I can and invite them back to [Dearborn] to meet with my interfaith leaders.
Q: Do you feel like you’re a voice for the Arab American and the Muslim American Communities in Michigan?
A: Certainly, but I’ll also add this: when the first executive orders came out I stood up in caucus with my Democratic colleagues and I said an attack on any community is an attack on all of us and [my colleagues] all stood at my side. I may be the only Muslim, but I’m certainly not the only individual advocating for Muslims to be treated equally.
Q: What issues are you most passionate about?
A: The intersection of our health and the environment… my background in public health [is why] I’m very passionate about that. Civil rights advocacy is something I’m also very passionate about… criminal justice reform is something that’s becoming a real interest to me. How to improve the quality of life for everyone is what I am most passionate about.
Q: What do you feel are your greatest accomplishments in office so far?
A: Definitely keeping the community engaged, we had a town hall [recently] with 120 people who turned out. I’m proud that I campaigned with a heightened tenacity, and so far I think I’m adhering to that promise of working at that same level.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to say that I haven’t touched on?
A: We need some really good Halal restaurants in Lansing because there aren’t many!
If you want to contact State Representative Abdullah Hammoud: