Why I stand with Ahmed Mohamed

Illustrated by Amy Liu

By Sadde Mohamed, St. John's School

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I see a lot of myself in Ahmed. How could I not? He shares two-thirds of my name, looks a bit like I did when I was a freshman and is a black Muslim living in Texas. There is one thing, though, reminding me that he is not actually a clone of myself: his composure.

I’ve been exposed to Islamophobia and general prejudice. Don’t get me wrong, I love Houston― I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, and I actually plan on returning after college. But I am getting sick of being treated differently when I go to a store with my mom and receiving hostile looks because of the scarf she wears on her head. I’m getting sick of the obvious and sometimes pointed staring and unease from other families whenever my family goes to IHOP after our Eid prayer in our religious attire, like we do every year.

Even my peers can make me feel incredibly uncomfortable, whether unintentional or otherwise. I’ve heard people say “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) ironically, and I’ve listened to unconditional praise for the movie American Sniper, which I hope you realize by now is a shade below propaganda. None of this makes me feel very respected. Unfortunately, I have grown accustomed to this sort of thing given my 16 years as a Muslim in the south.

Imagine my surprise when I heard that Ahmed Mohamed, a ninth grader in Irving, Texas, was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school because his teacher thought it was a bomb. Hint: I wasn’t actually surprised.

I’m fully aware of the support I receive from the St. John’s community and my teachers, but I couldn’t help but feel infuriated by how the situation was handled and what would’ve happened if that had been me. I felt angry that this sort of thing was even allowed to happen. Yet I wasn’t really shocked to hear that it did. With that in mind, I admire the maturity Mohamed displayed as he articulated his side of the story and his plans for the future. For the most part, he seems unfazed by the incident.

To Ahmed I say this: Do not shrink from the spotlight. You have been wronged, but you have also been noticed, and the world (including NASA, Mark Zuckerberg and the White House) is watching you. Do great things. Build more clocks.

To continue the parallel between myself and Ahmed, I understand that the world is watching me as well. I don’t plan to bring a clock to school anytime soon (I don’t think I can even properly construct one). But I do want people to know that Islamophobia is all too real and pernicious. I may not be as composed as Ahmed, but I will give my best efforts to help dissipate Islamophobia in my community. Maybe then everyone can freely bring a clock to school.