I Stand With Ahmed: Fighting Islamophobia in the United States

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By Summer Wong

On September 14, 2015, Ahmed Mohamed, a fourteen year old innovator, was arrested for bringing a homemade clock thought to be a bomb to MacArthur High School. Texas police charged him with bringing a “hoax bomb” into school, but after protests erupted charges were  dropped.

Over the past couple of weeks, the burning question that had the mass media buzzing was: why was Ahmed really arrested? Was it a result of deep rooted racism?

Some debaters of this issue claim that anti-Islam beliefs had nothing to do with the motivations behind Ahmed’s arrest. However, the fact that Ahmed, a Muslim young man, was suspected of bringing something like a bomb to school is too much of a coincidence to dismiss.

The ugly truth is that America is strongly Islamophobic. The tragic events of September 11 dramatically shaped America’s perception of Islamic people to the point where we grew to fear everything that was related to Muslims. However, this fear is a result of unsupported generalizations made by bigoted individuals who make it their goal to spread their thoughts on their view of Islam. As a result of this exaggerated fear and hostility, people like Ahmed Mohamed are being picked on for merely sharing their creative innovations.

Hate crimes against Middle Eastern people are not something to be taken lightly. A New York taxi driver by the name of Ahmed Sharif was stabbed by a passenger back in 2010 after the passenger asked Sharif if he was Muslim, and Sharif replied that he was. In airports, Arab or Arab-looking individuals are often “randomly picked” for security checks.

“Those from ethnic minorities are forty two times more likely than white people to be stopped by police under the counter terrorism powers granted by schedule 7 of the 2000 Terrorism Act,” said political journalist Michael White in a politics blog for The Guardian.

Ahmed Mohamed. People are definitely going to assume it to be a Muslim name and infer stereotypes because of it. His English teacher claimed that his clock looked like a bomb but let’s be honest with ourselves. The clock did not look like a bomb. To the ignorant and racist, Ahmed just looked like a person who would make a bomb.

The fact that Ahmed is being punished with a three day suspension because he brought an invention to school hoping to impress his engineering teacher is appalling. Moreover, it is the total opposite of what an American education is supposed to provide for its students. Ahmed was handcuffed in front of his classmates and was forbidden to talk to his parents while detained at the police station.

Ahmed’s story is one of many. We must combat Islamophobic sentiment in our schools and society by properly educating students about Islamic religion. Education begets awareness, and awareness begets acceptance.

Contrary to what  some people believe, Islam is actually a very peaceful and embracing religion. Uninformed individuals influenced by the public media would assume that people who are Muslim are terrorists who cannot tolerate other religions.

However, the Quran clearly states that “God does not forbid you, with regards to those who fight you not for religion nor drive you away out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them, for God loves those who are just.”

It is imperative to remember that militant groups such as ISIS only represent the extremists. These extremists interpret the Quran differently in order to justify their violence and cruelty. Not every Muslim is part of ISIS; thus, not every Muslim is a terrorist.

Likewise, generosity is a critical part of the Muslim faith. One of the five pillars of Islam, Zakah  is to give to the poor. Muslim soldiers must also obey a conduct that forbids the mutilation of dead bodies,  killing women, children, or older men, and deviating from the righteous path. These are the kinds of facts we should be spreading instead of slandering Islam through the media.

Ahmed’s arrest was clearly a result of anti-Islam sentiments, and he is one of millions of targets who are unfairly treated. However, an awareness of the true tenets of Islam would help this generation break free of our prejudices. People like Ahmed should not be punished for innovating. As Barack Obama stated in his tweet, we should be encouraging and inspiring creative minds because “it’s what makes America great.”

I stand with Ahmed.

 

Summer Wong is a first year biological sciences major. She can be reached at summerw@uci.edu.

 

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