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Candidates Address Diversity in Community

Canton Township, county, state and federal candidates attended a candidate forum Friday night at the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs (Canton Mosque).

Diversity was a key issue the candidates addressed at Friday night's forum at the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs (MCWS), or Canton Mosque. 

There were 10 township, county, state and federal candidates who spoke to a crowd of 125 to 150 people at the forum, which the Canton Mosque held in cooperation with the Michigan Muslim Community Council. The campaign manager for Syed Taj (D), running for U.S. Congress, spoke on his behalf, although he did make it at the end to hear his fellow candidates speak.

Canton Trustee

  • John Anthony (R)
  • Pat Williams (R)
  • Steve Sneideman (D)
  • Greg Demopoulos (R)

Michigan House of Representatives (21st District)

  • Dian Slavens (D)

Michigan House of Representatives (20th District)

  • Tim Roraback (D)

U.S. Congress (11th District)

  • Special Election - Dave Curson (D)

Wayne County Commissioner (10th District)

  • James Amar (D)
  • Shannon Price (R)

Wayne County 3rd Circuit Judge

  • Joseph V. Brennan

Haaris Ahmad, vice president of MCWS, said that the Canton Mosque serves about 4,000 people who represent a diverse mix of South Asians, Arabs, Africans, African Americans and Caucasians.

"Canton is truly a diverse community as you can see tonight," said Anthony. "And that's what makes Canton Canton."

Muhi Khwaja, 27, who organized the forum and ran for Plymouth-Canton Community Schools' board of education last year, asked the candidates what they would do to ensure houses of worship were not subjected to unfair zoning practices. 

"It's a deeply held piece of history in this country that there is freedom of religion," Roraback said.

Williams said what the township controls in that regard is limited, but said it's part of the economic development engine to allow houses of worship.

"It's a win-win for Canton," he said because houses of worship bring families that buy homes and send their children to the township's schools.

Demopoulos said he voted in favor of the expansion of the Canton Mosque a few years ago and helped solve zoning issues for the Sikh community's Gurdwara in Canton. 

"There's a reason this mosque is in Canton," Anthony said. 

He said the community could have gone anywhere but saw something in Canton to build here. 

"You add something to the diversity of this community," he said.

Diversity in Workforce

A forum attendee asked Anthony about diversity in Canton's public safety department. 

"Canton is an equal opportunity employer," he said. "But we don't have a quota."

He said the township looks for qualified employees wherever they can find them.

Sneideman, who served on Plymouth-Canton Community Schools board of education for six years, said the district faced a similar issue. 

"We would advertise for teaching positions but not be able to attract minority applicants," he said.

He said it took a concentrated effort on the board's part to start looking in the right places to reach a more diverse pool of applicants.

Curson addressed the question of whether it is important for Michigan to be a welcoming place for immigrants. 

"The economy in Michigan can't just be dependent on the auto industry," he said. 

Curson said Michigan needs an easy citizenship process for students that come so they can be an asset after they graduate instead of leaving the country.

Community Thoughts

Several of the forum's attendees said they felt more informed about the candidates.

"I thought it was helpful to see and hear the candidates," said Waqas Jilani, of Canton.

He said seeing the candidates in person as opposed to only seeing their names helped him decide where his vote will go.

"I think it was informative," said Saqib Masood, of Canton. "We get to see who is actually interested in coming and who is sincere in what they're trying to do."

He said he enjoyed the candidate forum more than he expected. 

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