Faz Husain

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Faizi Faz Husain (January 21, 1952 – March 9, 2006) was a pizza shop owner, Muslim community leader, and local politician in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area of Michigan.

He was born and grew up in the Patna Museum in Patna, Bihar, India, where his grandfather, Mr. Tajamul Husain, was curator. At age 14, he immigrated to the United States and settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he learned the pizza business. Husain was a spouse in an arranged marriage to a woman named Nikat. After he had established himself in Ypsilanti, he arranged to have Nikat join him there. In an effort for himself and his family to be Americanized, Husain started calling his wife "Nikki." At times, though, he struggled to understand American culture. Once, a friend gave the Husains a shirt for their baby girl that innocently had the words "sugar and spice" on the front. They were confused until one of his employees explained that the quote came from a nursery rhyme. Despite his efforts at Americanization, Husain remained a devout Muslim, observing Ramadan, for instance. He also put the letters "INOG," for "In Name Of God," at the top of his print advertising for his pizza shop. As an adult, he opened his own shop, called "Hello Faz Pizza", first in Ypsilanti, and later on West Liberty Street in nearby Ann Arbor.[1] In his Ypsilanti pizza shop, Husain created a calzone-like dish he named "faz," after himself. He provided employment not only to his relatives, but also to other young people in the community, who worked in his kitchen and delivered pizzas and fazes.

In 1979, he was elected to the Ypsilanti City Council, the first Muslim and the first native of India to win elected office in Michigan, and one of the first in the nation.[2] Husain paid Dominic Pallazola, one of his Ypsilanti pizza shop workers who happened also to be knowledgeable about politics, to be his campaign manager in the City Council race. Pallazola wrote Husain's campaign literature and coached him in campaigning, working side-by-side with him on election day, for instance. As the campaign began, there was a concern about the possibility of an anti-Muslim backlash among the city's voters, particularly because of the radical Islam movement that had taken control in Iran and held many Americans there hostage. As a result, in his campaign literature Husain insisted that the letters "usa" in his name be capitalized, i.e., "HUSAin," in order to emphasize his pride in being an American. After his election to Ypsilanti City Council, he served as kind of a bridge between the progressive members of the political community with support from Eastern Michigan University students, and the more traditional conservative members of the community at large. Husain was also a candidate for mayor in 1993, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1984, and traveled to India with President Bill Clinton on a trade mission in 2000.[3]

Gregarious and cheerful, Husain enjoyed the spotlight; the walls of his shop displayed a selection from thousands of pictures of himself with people in show business, sports, and politics.[4]

He died of pulmonary fibrosis at age 54, and is buried in Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "From Patna to Pizza", The Communicator (Ann Arbor, Mich.), March 23, 2006
  2. ^ Mourners flock to funeral for 'just a pizza guy', Ann Arbor News, March 11, 2006
  3. ^ Hello Faz travels on Clinton's India trip, Michigan Daily, April 4, 2000
  4. ^ a b A2 says goodbye, Faz, Michigan Daily, May 30, 2006

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