Last Monday, a 14-year-old student, Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested at his school in Irving, Texas for bringing a clock to school that looked like a bomb.
The charges were subsequently dropped, and while Mohamed was generally met with support, some have taken the time to criticize the attention that the case has received. Commentators on social media sites such as Facebook were quick to point out that the clock did, in fact, look very similar to suitcase bombs often seen in movies.
One Facebook page with over 20,000 likes, The Warfighter Foundation, had the audacity to claim that the decision to detain Mohamed was obviously sound: the United States has been at war with Muslim terrorists for years, it was three days after the anniversary of 9/11 and his last name was Mohamed.
Other commentators have expressed their outrage at Mohamed’s subsequent invite to the White House by President Barack Obama, questioning where the invites were for the families of service members killed in action, or the families of those murdered in July at military installations in Chattanooga, for example.
While the argument that a 14-year-old inventor’s arrest was justifiable is far too ridiculous to even merit a response, the sentiment that Mohamed’s injustice has been placed above all other injustices, including those suffered by our service members, is a dangerous one.
I have the utmost respect for the men and women who dedicate their lives to this country, and I feel for the families who have lost loved ones in the two wars that we have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. With that being said, do those expressing their disgust at Mohamed’s invite to the White House over the families of soldiers, not realize the irony in such a stance?
Service members are praised because they serve to protect the fundamental truth that Americans hold so dear: the right to pursue one’s dreams regardless of race, religion, color or creed. These military members are lauded, and rightfully so, but then the blatant violation of a young American’s rights – rights people have died, especially in the wake of 9/11, to protect –is either defended or brushed off as a simple, innocuous mistake.
Obama absolutely did the right thing in inviting Mohamed to the White House. Inviting the families of service members killed in action, or the families of the Chattanooga victims, although nice gestures, would not have changed anything at the end of the day. They would not have provided comfort to the families and they would not have solved the problems of war and gun violence that plague this country.
Inviting Mohamed to the White House, however, does do something: it sends a message to millions of young Americans that the “American Dream” is still alive, that no matter who you are, you can still be what you want to be.
The racial profiling that took place in Texas is not what the United States stands for, but sometimes it does take the President of the United States to point that out.
This isn’t a case of blowing matters out of proportion, or Mohamed’s family exploiting the injustice for personal gain. It’s the manifestation of the very real Islamophobia that exists in this country, and a statement needs to be made against it.
Despite 9/11, despite the actions of ISIS, despite the Boston Marathon bombings and the numerous other attempted terrorist attacks on the United States since 9/11, the moment that this country allows such glaring discrimination to go unchecked is the moment that the terrorists truly crumble the foundation on which this country was built.
I stand with Ahmed because I support the troops, because I am an American and because I still believe in the American Dream, and I hope that he does too.
Steven Gillard is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]