In Paris, Texas, residents focus on Muslim mayor's achievements, not faith

PARIS, TX (KTRK) -- A Muslim in small town Texas is defying the odd and has forever changed a community. Eyewitness News examines the changes the Pakistani native has brought to Paris, Texas.

Doctor AJ Hashmi knows he stands out in the town of Paris, Texas, a town of 25,000 people.

"I look different. I sound different," said Dr. AJ Hashmi, who has a Pakistani accent.

It's something residents of the small town have certainly noticed.

"A wealthy, Muslim, cardiologist, from the Middle East, is not the norm in Paris, Texas," said Paris resident Keith Flowers.

But Dr. Hashmi is not the norm by any standard. He's met two presidents, become a hero to countless patients, has treated former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and then, one day, decided he wanted to do more.

He told his friends he could help the people of Paris and was going to run for city council. Hashmi said they told him, that may not be the best idea.

"They thought I was crazy," laughed Hashmi.

The Muslim American started campaigning door-to-door, not everyone was receptive. Hashmi's friend, Keith Flowers, helped in the effort.

"Did we have some pushback saying, 'Well, you know his religion is different. He's not from here.' We got some of that," said Flowers.

However, Hashmi did not back down or give up. Instead, he spoke to concerned votes and told them why he was the candidate for the job. Months later, Hashmi beat out the incumbent. Now, he's the town's mayor. It's an honor the successful man said he can't put into words.

"Five, six, seven people can like you, but then hundreds of people support you, that's a great feeling," said Hashmi.

In four years he's replaced aging infrastructure, improved city finances and saves a city in need of healing.

"He's been a savior to the city, just like he has to people who may come into our local hospital with a heart attack," said Flowers.

Now the doctor is saving another town. When nearby Clarksville lost its only hospital, Dr. Hashmi bought it. He's completely renovating the 50-patient-room facility. The hospital is set to be complete this fall.

Hashmi's term as mayor ends in May. He did not tell us what he has planned next, but no matter what it is, he's up for the challenge.

"The thing about it is, there are challenges in everything and I'm not afraid of picking up the challenges and addressing them," said Hashmi.
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