The 'cool clock' boy shows the worst and best of America
The gesture to invite the ninth-grader to take his clock to the White House is laudable, and will go a long way in wooing minorities and other dispossessed sections of the American society.
Published: Sat 19 Sep 2015, 12:00 AM
Last updated: Sun 20 Sep 2015, 9:39 AM
Ahmed Mohammad is now a celebrity in the United States. The little boy who was handcuffed and suspended for bringing his homemade clock, which was mistaken for a bomb by the school authorities, is now all smiles and has a tale to tell. President Barack Obama has invited him to the White House to share with him his invention, and similar invites are pouring in from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Nasa to visit their facilities.
This episode is in need of being studied in an objective manner. The psychological terror and abuse that Mohammad, 14-year-old son of a Muslim immigrant from Sudan, suffered at the hands of his school authorities is condemnable. The fact that he was handcuffed and Texas cops were called in to arrest him is disgusting. All that he was carrying with him is his clock invention that resembled a bomb! This speaks high of not only the fear factor but also the sense of otherness that has set in American society in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Call it Islamophobia or paranoia, minorities still face the uphill task of proving their loyalty and patriotism when it comes to the business of the state. That is why Mohammad sooner than later found himself in a social media whirlwind that reflected the nation's charged debates on Islam, immigration and ethnicity.
Obama, nonetheless, made the necessary socio-political correction by tweeting in support of the student. The gesture to invite the ninth-grader to take his clock to the White House is laudable, and will go a long way in wooing minorities and other dispossessed sections of the American society. This is like appreciating the nation's enterprise and their zest to contribute to the development and prosperity of the state.
"We should inspire more kids like you to like science...it's what makes America great," Obama tweeted. Similarly, the Facebook chief was candid, as he said: "Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest. The future belongs to people like Ahmed. I'd love to meet you. Keep building."
Notwithstanding the damage control measures that have come from America's who's who, the point is that Mohammad's teachers have failed him. Had it not been an issue out in media and the prompt reaction from the powers-that-be, Mohammad would have simply been an addition to the long list of people who are shunned and discriminated to lead a faceless life in the shadows. As rightly stated by the White House spokesperson, the incident could serve as a teachable moment about how pernicious stereotypes can affect people's judgment.
While Mohammad will be a sought-after guest on the Astronomy Night (September 19) - an event bringing together scientists, engineers, astronauts, teachers and students on the lawns of the White House - Obama has an opportunity to send across the message that none should be discriminated on the basis of unreasoned prejudice, and at the same time Americans should walk the extra mile to bury xenophobic and Islamophobic sentiments. Only than can Mohammad and his likes be acknowledged in the true spirit of Americanism.