Ahmed Mohamed — the 14-year-old ninth grader in Irving, Texas, who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school when teachers accused him of making a bomb — has become the focus of a social media furor.
A series of tweets in support of the boy, tagged with #IStandWithAhmed, noted the Islamophobic double standard surrounding the case, arguing had the young inventor been white with a non-Muslim name, he would have been celebrated. As of Wednesday afternoon, the hashtag was trending with nearly 500,000 tweets.
And then there was POTUS. At 12:58 p.m., President Barack Obama sent a simple tweet offering his support for Mohamed's technical curiosity and inviting the student to the White House to show off his homemade clock.
The president's remarks are defiantly incongruous with comments from within Irving. After Mohamed was summoned to a roomful of five police officers, one officer involved allegedly said, "Yup. That's who I thought it was." Mohamed told the Dallas Morning News he had never seen the officer before.
Many people, including the boy's family, accused the school and law enforcement officers of racial profiling and Islamophobia. "He just wants to invent good things for mankind," Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, Ahmed's father, told the Dallas Morning News. "But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated."
As Obama's tweet points out, alongside the racial implications, the story also draws attention to the United States' dearth of STEM students, despite arguments skilled students in these fields will likely be necessary to the nation's future economic success. According to a February Pew report, the U.S. ranks 35th of 64 countries for math and 27th for science. The problem is especially pertinent of people of color and women.
Obama's tweet notes the need to support the industry: "We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great."