WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday invited a Muslim schoolboy to the White House after he was arrested and dragged off in handcuffs for bringing a homemade clock to class.
Obama congratulated 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed on his skills and issued a presidential invitation, in what amounts to a pointed rebuke to school and police officials who precipitated his arrest.
“Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great,” the president tweeted.
The teen was led out of his Texas school after a teacher mistook his homemade digital clock for a bomb, prompting accusations of Islamophobia and an online backlash.
As soon as the news broke, people on social media started trending in favour of Ahmed, calling the incident, as well as the boy’s treatment by the police ‘discriminatory’, ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobic’.
A photo of Ahmed standing in handcuffs while wearing a t-shirt with the US space agency NASA’s logo was retweeted thousands of times in a matter of hours and “#IStandWithAhmed” was the top trending hashtag on Twitter.
Among those voicing support for the boy was Hillary Clinton, who tweeted: “Assumptions and fear don’t keep us safe – they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building.“
Ahmed Mohamed, a high-school student residing in Irving, Texas, was hoping to find a niche for himself at his new high school, after having been a member of a robotics club at his previous middle school.
He built a home-made clock which he took to school to show to his engineering teacher who, after taking a look at Ahmed’s creation, advised him not to show it to any other teachers.
When his clock’s alarm went off during another class, his teacher took notice of the invention. Ahmed showed it to her after class, explaining it was a clock.
“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” Ahmed said, adding “I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”
The teacher confiscated the clock and Ahmed was then pulled out of class by the school principal and a police officer.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of Facebook Inc. Mark Zuckerberg also appreciated the teenager’s skill and said that his ambition and skill to “build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest,” in a post on his official Facebook page.
“My hobby is to invent stuff,” the boy told The Dallas Morning News in a video posted on the paper’s website that was filmed in his electronics-filled bedroom.
“I made a clock. It was really easy. I wanted to show something small at first… they took it wrong so I was arrested for a hoax bomb.“