Tech Industry Stands With Ahmed

The Texas student detained for bringing a homemade clock to his high school has won the support of technology and political leaders.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

September 16, 2015

3 Min Read
<p style="text-align:left">(Image: Irving Police Department)</p>

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Technology industry executives and President Obama made it clear that they don't support the arrest of a Texas teen for tinkering, an activity they view as key to improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

On Monday, Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Muslim student at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, was detained for bringing a "suspicious-looking device" to school.

The suspicious-looking device turned out to be a science project: A handmade digital clock. According to local ABC affiliate WFAA, the Dallas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Ahmed was arrested because of his religious and racial identity.

A letter sent out on Tuesday by Principal Dan Cummings acknowledged the arrest and, despite finding no cause for alarm, cautioned parents to review school policies. "We will always take necessary precautions to protect our students," wrote Cummings.

Such protection amounts to guns at institutions of higher education. Over the summer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded local gun laws to allow concealed handguns on college campuses.

The clock did not, as school officials initially feared, explode. But social media did.

A press conference was held by the school district and the Irving Police Department to justify their actions. Afterward, President Barack Obama, via Twitter, invited the Texas student, since released, to Washington. "Cool clock, Ahmed," President Obama said in a tweet. "Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great."

NASA added its voice, tweeting that it supports STEM education and kids like Ahmed.

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Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, the world's largest social media network, condemned the arrest. "Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest," he wrote in a Facebook post. "The future belongs to people like Ahmed."

Zuckerberg added that if Mohamed ever wants to stop by Facebook, he'd be happy to meet.

Box CEO Aaron Levie chimed in with an invitation to visit his company. And many others, like Anil Dash, an early supporter of Ahmed's cause, voiced similar expressions of support.

Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for president, in a tweet said, "Assumptions and fear don't keep us safe -- they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building."

The Irving Independent School District acknowledged the arrest on its website but offered few details, citing privacy laws. On Wednesday, the district said it felt media reports were unfair. The district said it will provide further information to the media if the family consents.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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