By Afshan Zahra
Ahmed Mohammed, an ordinary student, who rose to fame as “The Clock Boy” has made it to headlines throughout the year in 2015.
A Muslim high-school student of MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, built a home-made clock which he took to school to show to his engineering teacher this year in September. When his clock’s alarm went off during another class, his teacher took notice of the invention, confiscated the clock and Ahmed was then pulled out of class by the school principal and a police officer, on suspicion of having built a hoax bomb.
Initial reports appeared on Dallas Morning News, a major daily newspaper of the area. Following the incident, police determined Mohamed had no malicious intent and was not charged with any crime.
In various interviews with the local and international media, Ahmed said that his clock was “built from scrap around the house” and that it took him just a few minutes to assemble the clock. He mentioned that it was a relatively easy venture for him as compared to other complicated items that he has built like putting together a CPU.
One of his teachers also mentioned that the child was known as an electronics enthusiast with a history of being disciplined for using a handmade remote control to cause a classroom projector to malfunction on command and was also noted for making a battery charger to help recharge the cell phone of a school tutor.
According to The Guardian, everybody in middle school knew Mohamed as “the kid who makes crazy contraptions”, and who fixed electronics classmates brought to him, earning him the nickname “Inventor Kid”.
Quickly scores of people, from an average Joe to celebs and politicians, came together on social media under the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed,to defend the 14-year-old boy and express indignation over the school’s decision, evident racial discrimination and Islamophobia.
According to social analytics site Topsy, close to a million people sent out tweets with the supportive hashtag #IstandwithAhmed in less than 24 hours.
News reports on Ahmed’s plight pushed him to an international celebrity status. To the extent that US President Barack Obama especially tweeted to invite him to the White House.
Obama tweeted: “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.”
Not just Obama, the boy saw an outpouring of support from politicians and technology leaders including Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin and Hilary Clinton.
Mark Zuckerberg also invited the lad to visit the company’s headquarters, posting, “Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest. The future belongs to people like Ahmed.”
Leaders at Reddit and Twitter offered internships to the teenager; Google executives reserved a spot at their weekend science fair while Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) asked the brainy boy to visit the campus.
Tech giant Microsoft also jumped in to back Ahmed, by showering the teenager with a range of gadgets, including a Surface Pro 3, a Microsoft Band and a 3-D printer.
Ahmed attended White House Astronomy Night event on the South Lawn of the White House held in October wherein he had a rendezvous with President Obama.
The President gave a speech to the audience in attendance at the event, saying: “We have to watch for and cultivate and encourage those glimmers of curiosity and possibility, not suppress them, not squelch them. After his speech, the President had brief talks with the boy and also hugged him.
Ahmed also attended Google’s science fair where he received a warm welcome and ended up touring the booths and taking selfies with the finalists.
Being a member of a Sudanese family that had immigrated to the United States, the smart chap has also come across Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir.
His father, Mohammed El Hassan Mohammed, is of the opinion that his son was targeted because of his brown skin color and his religion. After the incident, he had pulled all of his children from schools in the Irving Independent School District.
According to Ahmed’s father, the family was invited to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City where United Nations officials and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu met his genius lad.
Ahmed was also invited to the Social Good Summit in New York City and during his visit, he had a meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, and members of New York City Council on a visit arranged by the NYPD Muslim Officers Society.
The Texas teenager later sent letters (published by Dallas TV station WFAA) to the city of Irving, Texas, as well as the Irving school district, demanding $15 million plus a written apology and threatened to file a lawsuit if he didn’t get both within 60days.
According to Ahmed’s lawyer Kelly Hollingsworth, his Fourth Amendment rights were violated as he was “publicly mistreated” and that has put him into severe “psychological trauma”.
Ahmed’s family has left Texas and is currently living in Doha, Qatar, where they accepted an invitation from Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community who had offered the boy full scholarship after the incident.
The Clock Boy’s influence has grown to the extent that he bagged a spot in 2015 TIME Magazine’s list of “30 Most Influential Teens”.