Ahmed Mohamed has this week gone from a nerdy high school freshman, to a suspect in handcuffs, to a nationally known figure personally invited by President Obama to the White House. Below is his story and the bigger picture of overlapping American problems that he has brought to our attention. Full story: http://bit.ly/1iUJPlk
  1. Who is Ahmed Mohamed and what is his clock?
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    Ahmed Mohamed is a Muslim high school freshman. On Monday, he brought one of his inventions with him to school: a simple electronic clock. He showed it to his engineering teacher, who was impressed but told Ahmed not to show it to others. In a later English class, the clock beeped and his teacher asked to see it. The teacher asked if it was a bomb; Ahmed explained, no, it was a clock. Police accused Ahmed of making a "hoax bomb" and took him to a juvenile detention center.
  2. How did the school and local police handle all this?
    The police handcuffed Ahmed and led him out of the school. These institutions, which exist to protect children like Ahmed, instead continued to treat him as a terrorist long after it was clear that his clock was just a harmless clock, a project made to please his teachers. The school claimed that Ahmed had broken the student code of conduct (against clocks?) in justifying his suspension.
  3. What is #IStandWithAhmed?
    People showed solidarity by tweeting the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed. At this point, he was still suspended and under formal police investigation — it wasn't at all clear Ahmed would be allowed back in school, much less become a national hero. The hashtag was meant to call attention to the injustice of how Ahmed had been treated, but also to speak to larger issues of discrimination; to the ways in which kids in America can be discouraged from their dreams on the basis of their race or religion.
  4. Why is Ahmed Mohamed's story such a big deal?
    Partly, it resonated for the obvious injustice of his particular, but also for the way it seemed to lay bare some much bigger problems that are sometimes hard to talk about. These include schools' ever-growing, and often counter-productive, obsession with security and the folly as well as the inhumanity of profiling.
  5. Why is Islamophobia so bad lately?
    There are 2.6 million American citizens who are Muslim, and their experience since 2001 has not always been an easy one. But it has worsened significantly since the rise of ISIS, which has coincided with a growing hostility in many elements of American media and politics toward Islam and Muslims.
  6. Are Muslims in America at risk of more than discrimination?
    Thankfully, so far most of that violence has targeted Islamic buildings rather than people — a series of mosques and Islamic cemeteries have been vandalized — though even this is rightly perceived by Muslims as a threat of more deadly attacks.
  7. Are politicians taking Islamophobia seriously?
    Some are, sort of. The Obama administration has tried to deal with this some, meeting with faith leaders and working to promote religious tolerance, though often this is in the context of countering violent extremism, an effort to combat ISIS propaganda that (falsely) claims the West is at war with Islam.
  8. What's next for Ahmed Mohamed?
    Short term, Ahmed says he's transferring to a different high school and plans to take up Obama's offer to visit the White House. Longer-term, he's been inundated with internship offers from major tech companies. An awful lot of those offers were made publicly, which suggests that maybe some of them were designed to exploit Ahmed's trauma for a little publicity, but maybe some of them were real.