In fact, when Katz and Hameeduddin discuss what they consider the key issues facing Teaneck and the rest of the country, they talk about taxes, budgets, housing and jobs. Not once do they mention immigration or religion. "That should be the topic of every politician: jobs, jobs, jobs," said Hameeduddin, who says he was nudged into running for the two-year term by Katz.
At first, Adam Gussen, the deputy mayor, worried about the reaction of his Orthodox Jewish constituents when they were asked to sign a petition to put Hameeduddin on the mayoral ballot. "The question in my mind was, are we really going to get the Orthodox Jewish community to vote for a guy named Mohammed?" Gussen said.
But Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American Relations, said it is not surprising that Hameeduddin has Jewish fans. "The Jewish community has been targeted in the past and is still targeted in the same way that Muslims are targeted," Hooper said. "There should be natural alliances there."
Given his stature as one of a handful of Muslim mayors in the U.S., and Teaneck's proximity to New York City, Hameeduddin has been called on to comment on the debate over Islam and the Lower Manhattan mosque. He appeared recently on CNN and on PBS' "NewsHour."
Hameeduddin says he has no desire for higher office. Between keeping his insurance business going, finding time to eat dinner with his wife, and answering e-mails and phone calls from constituents, this city keeps him busy enough.
Even Hameeduddin's critics say race and religion never played a part in their opposition, and they're surprised at the attention Teaneck has received for having a Muslim mayor. Some worry that Teaneck's problems will be glossed over as people trumpet the city as a model of tolerance. Others fret that Hameeduddin's newfound fame will make it harder for him to focus on local issues.
One such constituent is Art Vatsky, a local political gadfly who hopes that with the national spotlight on Teaneck, Hameeduddin will be more sensitive to the way local issues are handled. But getting an appointment with Hameeduddin is proving difficult for Vatsky, who has yet to meet with the mayor he calls Mohammed.
"When he's in session, it's Mayor," Vatsky said. "But when we're having coffee, it's Mohammed."