Archive | September, 2015

#IStandWithAhmed

16 Sep

I’m sure every single one of you today has seen the news story about 14 year old Ahmed Mohamed from Irving, Texas, who was arrested for bringing a clock that he made to school. His teachers made the (inexcusable) mistake of thinking it looked too much like a bomb, so of course this 14 year old ethnic American boy was a threat to society (note the sarcasm).

I woke up to this news today with obvious outrage. How was it even remotely acceptable that this situation came about?

If a kid (brown, white or rainbow coloured) comes to school with a ‘suspicious’ looking electronic device, here’s what you do:
1) As a qualified (and hopefully competent) engineering teacher, you look at said device.
2) You see that said device is a clock, not a bomb (huge difference, btw).
3) You praise this (clearly very smart) kid for making said device.
4) You carry on being a competent teacher.

I think I commented on every single article I read about this today, until it was just exhausting. I don’t think anyone with any sort of intelligence would deny that this was a clear case of racial profiling. Of course this 14 year old boy whose name was ‘too Muslim’ was scrutinised because he was Muslim, and isn’t it only ever young Muslim men that carry out acts of violence? Not even focusing on the fact that violence in America usually revolves around the gun issue, and mass shootings are often carried out by young white men. This isn’t to start a debate about guns, but just to make the point. Have we started profiling every young white male that goes to school with an electronic device? No. Because we shouldn’t, because it’s stupid and wrong.

The Internet (surprisingly) reacted as it should have done, and called out the school, Texas, and America on its blatant racial profiling of young Muslim boys. Well done, internet.

I did, however, see a few too many comments that were along the lines of:
“Well, it’s better to be safe than sorry..”
“You know what *those* people are like..”
“It’s a clock today, what could it be tomorrow..”

Let me stop you there. No, it’s a clock today, and it’ll be a damn clock tomorrow. There is NO valid justification for what happened to Ahmed today, so quit trying, you sound like a racist bigot.

But let me tell you something about the radicalisation of young Muslim men, because that of course is your biggest fear:
Young Muslim men are the targets of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and whatever other radical Islamist Jihadi group. They prey on young, Western, disillusioned (and often) boys. They prey on young people who have no faith in their Government and society, young men who don’t believe they’re truly American (or British, or any other Western nationality) and they use this to their advantage to marry it with this idea of “Islam is antithetical to the West. To be a real Muslim, you have to hate the West. Come and join us to be a true Muslim.”
They don’t try to recruit smart, educated individuals with bright futures in politics, or science, or technology who are proud of being American, or British. That’s because these individuals hate ISIS and Al-Qaeda and radical Islam more than anyone else in the world. Because they’ve taken our religion and turned it into this hell that we’re seeing in Afghanistan and Syria.

But, when you criminalise a smart, young, 14 year old kid in his NASA t-shirt, you’re telling him that it doesn’t matter that he’s smart, because if his name is Ahmed Mohamed, he is only capable of terrorism. Then his clock is no longer a clock and his talents are no longer valued. You alienate this child and you turn him against the America he was raised in and loves.
THIS is how you create radicalised Muslims. THIS is what ISIS is counting on. THIS is where your counter-terrorism strategy is failing horribly. So for everyone who made comments about ‘being safe rather than sorry,’ you are contributing to creating the very monster you are so frightened of.

My last point on this is what started as a horrendous story has turned into a hugely positive social media campaign.

If you see the response that has come out of this, from POTUS to Hillary Clinton, to Mark Zuckerberg, to America and the rest of the world so clearly seeing the dangers of demonising an entire group of people and realising how counterproductive that is to creativity, to nurturing the youth and to counter terrorism policy, you would realise just how much of an impact this one child has had, in one day.

The social media response has been phenomenal. For every xenophobe, racist and bigot, there is a wonderful world of smart people who have reacted with the American ideals they’re supposed to have, the ideals of an inclusive, tolerant society that promotes creativity and nurtures its young people and leaders of the future, whichever religion or race they’re of (or not of)- isn’t that what the American Dream was supposed to be about?

That’s why the ‘West’ is so valued by so many Muslims, despite what the media tells you. Muslims like Ahmed, who wants to contribute positively to America and millions of others. Like my 12 year old kid brother who wants to work for NASA. Muslims like me who love Britain (and America) and will continue to work for my country.

We’re here, we love it, and we’re not leaving any time soon.

#IStandWithAhmed

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