Ahmed Without His Clock: Standing in solidarity with Ahmed is important to counteract Islamaphobia

By Alisina Saee-Nazari

Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Muslim student, was arrested at school on Sept. 14 for building a clock which was mistaken for a bomb by his English teacher.

A son of Sudanese immigrants, Mohamed brought his homemade clock to MacArthur High School in hopes of impressing his teachers, but instead was treated as a threat to the district of Irving, Texas. Once police acknowledged that what Ahmed made wasn’t a bomb, but he was still arrested under the suspicion of constructing a “hoax bomb.”

Mohamed’s arrest is symbolic of the United States’ continued sentiments of Islamaphobia and anti-blackness. However, nationwide support on Twitter focusing on Ahmed’s creativity and resistance illustrates possible hope for social change.

#IstandwithAhmed began trending on Twitter within 24 hours after Ahmed’s arrest, as words of encouragement streamed in from Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and innovators of the Silicon Valley.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, posted, “Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest.”

Excelling does lead to applause if you’re white. Many have drawn comparisons between Ahmed Mohamed and Taylor Wilson, who became the youngest person to ever produce nuclear fusion in 2008.

Also 14, Wilson built a nuclear reactor in his parents’ garage in his hometown of Texarkana, Arkansas, which was later finished at the University of Reno. This got the attention of the United States Department of Homeland Security, and with much praise, Wilson was invited to their offices.

The message is clear: if you’re white then the sciences are for you; if you’re brown and passionate about the field, you’re a threat.

I’m not surprised to hear about Mohamed’s arrest, or to be writing another op-ed on Islamaphobia. Just last semester, the University of Massachusetts received criticism for ceasing to teach Iranian nationals in certain programs in the Colleges of Engineering and Natural Sciences.

The policy would’ve affected two-thirds of the Iranian nationals already enrolled at UMass,  reinforcing the idea that the field of sciences is for white people. Like #IstandwithAhmed, students at UMass rallied in support with the trending hashtag #weareumass.

It is important to recognize the nationwide support that Mohamed has received in order to highlight its infrequency. State sanctioned violence disproportionately affects black communities due to our country’s culturally enforced anti-blackness.

As we stand with Ahmed, we should also stand with India Clarke, Amber Monroe, Christian Taylor, Samuel Dubose, Tanisha Anderson, Miriam Carey and many others. Tuesday morning an unarmed black 16-year-old was beaten and taken down by nine officers for walking in the bus lane in Stockton, California.

Just two years older than Ahmed, his arrest went viral with a witness being heard repeatedly shouting: “He’s just a kid!” We need to demilitarize our police force, because there are kids like Ahmed without a homemade clock, a hashtag, and haven’t been identified.

Alisina Saee-Nazari is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]