Monday, September 21, 2015
Ahmed's Clock and Being Muslim in America
For young Ahmed it was quite a week. In the end he had a personal invitation from Mark Zuckerberg to visit him at Facebook, an invitation to the Google Science Fair and most amazing of all a personal message from the President of the United States to come see him in the White House. Microsoft decided to make their sentiments more tangible by sending him this impressive gift package. How did this guy warrant all this attention?
In case you haven't heard, the authorities at MacArthur High School didn't take too kindly to an electronic clock Ahmed made in an effort to impress his Engineering Teacher. The English teacher mistook it for a bomb, the principal called the police, who marched young Ahmed out of the school in handcuffs and interrogated him for hours without letting him contact his parents. Even if we consider the English teacher had a legitimate worry given all the wires that surrounded the time piece, there was no excuse for treating the boy like a criminal.
Young Ahmed's story went viral with millions of persons extending their support for the young tech wiz via twitter, facebook and other social media. Even the Wall Street Journal chose to "Stand with Ahmed." It was pretty hard not too. Only the most callous parent wouldn't have sympathy for a young teenager put through an ordeal like this.
The "lamestream media" was quick to cast this as a case of Islamophobia, which of course set the conservative media into hyperdrive looking for any angle to justify the actions taken by authorities at the Dallas-area high school. Megyn Kelly had the audacity to bring in noted racist, Mark Fuhrman, along with their 13 year-old conservative poster child, C.J. Pearson, to weigh in on the issue. Both believed something was very fishy about that electronic clock. The conservative blowhards aren't the only ones questioning Ahmed's motives. None other than Richard Dawkins has done so as well in a tweet he probably wishes he had retracted immediately.
Islamophobia will destroy you, as the Kinks might sing. Not everyone who offers praise to Allah is a terrorist in waiting, but this is pretty much how Muslims have been presented in the American media. Yet, there are roughly 3 million Muslims living in our midst and somehow our country manages to go on just fine. There are even Muslim legislators, and so far not one of them has called for Sharia Law to be put in place of the U.S. Constitution, unlike some presidential candidates we know, who believe God's Law trumps that of man.
The good doctor took this level of rhetoric one step further by saying he doesn't believe a Muslim should be President of the United States, although he would make an exception for Congresspersons. I'm sure Keith Ellison breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, Dr. Ben is just playing to the base of his party, many of whom believe that President Obama is a closet Muslim, as we saw at a Trump rally in Rochester, New Hampshire. Rather than play down these fears, as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have done, Trump and Carson choose to play up these fears, to the point of reviving the Birther movement. This was Trump's undoing in 2011, and I hope that will be the case for both he and Carson this time around as well.
People have become suspicious and even afraid of Muslims, believing they are part of terror cells in this country. Americans don't want to accept Syrian refugees because they think there will be ISIS members among them. But, if we are to believe Rick Perry, ISIS has already found its way into America through our porous border along Mexico. All the more reason to fear Ahmed's clock.
It is really sad when a large segment of our country devolves to this sort of paranoia. It is fortunate that all turned out well for young Ahmed and that so many persons chose to stand with him. But, obviously, we have a problem with institutionalized racism here that cannot be conveniently brushed under the rug as just school administrators and local police doing their job.
Ahmed is not some prankster who planned an elaborate means to get himself thrust into the media spotlight, as Richard Dawkins suggested, putting himself in the same company as Sarah Palin. Ahmed is a natural-born tinkerer, not to mention citizen of the United States who might one day choose to run for President, much to Ben Carson's chagrin. His parents came from Sudan and have built a better life for themselves in the Dallas area. The school finally chose to reinstate Ahmed after the public outcry, but understandably his parents are looking into a transfer. It isn't easy growing up Muslim in America, but it seems Ahmed has found many new friends.