#IstandwithAhmed breaks internet: Millions on clock watch for 9th grader detained for device
Ahmed, a ninth grader from Irving, Texas, was eager to impress his teachers with his newest creation – a clock that he invented in just 20 minutes, consisting of a circuit board and a power supply wired to a digital display. The clock and its wirings were all strapped inside a case.
However, his excitement turned to fear when he was pulled out of class by the principal and arrested after the clock’s alarm went off during his English period.
“It looks like a bomb,” his teacher told him. The boy was taken to a juvenile detention center and questioned by police before being released to his parents.
It was not until two days later that police announced they would not charge the teen for creating a “hoax bomb.” Instead, they dropped the case.
Between Ahmed’s arrest and the announcement that he would not face charges, social media exploded with tweets ranging from funny to supportive. All used the #IStandWithAhmed hashtag.
Here's how to make your own homemade clock that isn’t a bomb http://t.co/tJiBAI6PMu— WIRED (@WIRED) September 16, 2015
Many people took photos of themselves with clocks at work.
I got a slow start today because I kept hitting "snooze" on my nightstand bomb.— Brian McFadden (@BrianMc_Fadden) September 16, 2015
Pebble, which makes watches, tweeted a comment that was at once snarky and supportive, daring the Irving Independent School District to arrest them for making digital clocks.
Bobak Ferdowsi, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory nicknamed ‘Mohawk Guy’, offered Ahmed a job in a couple of years.
Hey Ahmed, give me a call in a couple years. We could always use smart, curious & creative people. https://t.co/02a4feMrk5— Bobak Ferdowsi (@tweetsoutloud) September 16, 2015
Other people pointed out the hypocrisy of the school’s reaction ‒ as well as the police’s initial treatment of Ahmed ‒ while offering their support to the frightened teen.
#IStandWithAhmed because young, innovative, and educated people of color are always seen as threats— emily (@zehlanimusic) September 16, 2015
“If you can look at the photo of Ahmed in handcuffs, walking the hallways of his high school, wearing his NASA t-shirt, with the look of fear and anguish on his face and not feel disheartened then you are either 1) cold-hearted or 2) becoming immune to such incidents because it is entirely too commonplace,” Alexandra Russell, an office manager in Washington, DC, wrote on Facebook.
Logic of school teachers calling cops to arrest 14 yr old:"If a Muslim can make a clock,he could easily make a TIME bomb" #IStandWithAhmed— salman ahmad (@sufisal) September 16, 2015
“The adults in this situation have utterly failed him. I hope the rest of us adults can take a moment in our everyday lives to ensure we think more rationally instead of immediately acting out of fear and hatred,” Russell continued. “I feel helpless that this is all that I can do but if it saves another situation like this one from happening again, I'm all in. #IStandWithAhmed.”
#IStandWithAhmed because I'm a physicist at MIT, and he's the kind of student we dream of having!— Chanda (王嬋娟) (@IBJIYONGI) September 16, 2015
Celebrities have also shown their support, from drummers to TV stars and hip hop moguls to politicians. Just as importantly for Ahmed, though, tech industry notables have rallied behind the teen.
Grant Imahara, known for his work as an electronics and radio control expert on the TV show ‘Mythbusters’, noted that he had similar interests to the Texas teen growing up.
My room looked exactly like his with soldering iron, computer, circuit boards. Some homemade, some cobbled together. #IStandWithAhmed— Grant Imahara (@grantimahara) September 16, 2015
So did tech journalist and author Andy Ihnatko, who wrote a blog post called ‘I’m Ahmed. Except I’m Not Brown’ about how his white privilege prevented him from being in a similar situation to Ahmed when he was the same age.
He came across as quite nice, sharp, thoughtful, affable, and someone whose company you’d trust your personal data to.— Andy Ihnatko (@Ihnatko) September 16, 2015
“I recognized this kid immediately. This was me when I was in public school. Even in sixth grade, my classroom cubby contained a lunchbox filled with batteries, wires, and random circuits,” Ihnatko wrote. “During a frustrated, failure-filled period when I was trying to master photographic printmaking, my bookbag might have contained brown bottles filled with stinky chemicals.”
“All of these stories come across as charming and nostalgic tales of a nerdy little kid on his way to a predestined career in science, math, or technology. There was never any negative fallout. Yes, partly because it was more than a decade before 9/11,” the Chicago Sun-Times journalist continued. “But they’re happy stories mostly because I was a white Catholic kid named Andy Ihnatko. Not a brown kid named Ahmed Mohamed, and not a black kid named anything.”
When a kid who loves robotics builds a clock & wants to show his classmates, we should celebrate him. Not arrest him. #IStandWithAhmed— Sophia Bush (@SophiaBush) September 16, 2015
#IStandWithAhmed — stay strong little brother. you are a genius and we all support your incredible passion for innovation + technology.— Russell Simmons (@UncleRUSH) September 16, 2015
Assumptions and fear don't keep us safe—they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building. https://t.co/ywrlHUw3g1— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 16, 2015
Even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan condemned the school’s actions.
We need to be encouraging young engineers, not putting them in handcuffs. #IStandWithAhmed— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) September 16, 2015
President Barack Obama invited Ahmed to bring his clock to the White House.
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.— President Obama (@POTUS) September 16, 2015
Friends also stepped in to show how well-known the teen’s love of engineering was to the school.
The family has started a Twitter account for Ahmed, aptly named @IStandWithAhmed.
Thank you fellow supporters. We can ban together to stop this racial inequality and prevent this from happening again pic.twitter.com/fBlmckoafU— Ahmed Mohamed (@IStandWithAhmed) September 16, 2015
On Wednesday, they tweeted that they were meeting with a lawyer to “stand for his rights.”