The Growing Michigan Together Council and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding hosted a private American Muslim Town Hall last week at the Arab American National Museum, with nearly 50 American Muslim community leaders.
Hilary Doe, the Council’s chief growth officer for Michigan, says it’s one of many meetings the group will have with Michigan residents to learn more about people’s needs in four areas: k-12, higher education, jobs and infrastructure.
“We have council members who are represented in this community. We’re seeing really important trends to pay attention to and listen to in the Muslim American community across the state,” Doe said.
Doe says some of the concerns people brought up are housing and transit and creating art gathering spaces.
The Listening Tours are part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s efforts to collect feedback to attract and retain talent in the state and increase the population by 2050. The Council will present its findings in December by submitting a report to the governor and the Michigan Legislature.
Humza Nadeem, a recent graduate student at Michigan State University, says it’s hard for young people to find jobs in Michigan. He thinks Michigan should create taxes and fiscal policies for companies to retain talent.
“Other states like Pennsylvania and Georgia are gaining other large companies, which is leaving us behind in the race for business and infrastructure,” he said.
Nadeem says part of the problem is not being able to access jobs due to a lack of public transport systems, typical in large metro cities.
Fatima Salman, president of the National Association of Social Workers, Michigan chapter, serves on the Council’s workgroup for higher education and helped organize last week’s event.
She says diverse Muslim leaders were invited to share their ideas.
“We wanted to make sure we brought in people that represented small businesses, big businesses – thinking specifically about the workgroups, and then how we can bring in the Muslim American population to best bring the voices to those workgroups.”
Also among the attendees was local entrepreneur Jermaine Carey. He says Black Indigenous Muslims are impacted by what “all Black people go through.”
African Americans make up the oldest and largest Muslim community in Michigan. He says this community is largely impacted by a lack of educational opportunities.
“Most of our community are just hustlers, which is not a long-term stability for our communities… consistently pushing poverty, piousness,” he said, adding that the state should work with imams and mayors to create sustainable communities.
People who were not a part of the invite-only town hall can submit their ideas online at growingmichigan.org.