It’s too bad Twitter, Facebook, talk show hosts, the media, MIT and every day Americans couldn’t rally around the kids in Texas who were prohibited from wearing American flags on their t-shirts…
Ahmed Mohamed is watching himself trend on my iPhone.
“Man, I went viral.”
Ahmed’s looking at a video of himself posted online, while he and his sister Eyman argue inside the family minivan over whether it has 24 million or 24,000 views.
“This is seven digits!” It’s 24 million views, in 24 hours,” Ahmed yelps. “I feel like I could just walk on the street and people would know who I am.”
The level of fame he’s achieved 24 hours after his suspension, arrest, and interrogation at MacArthur High School for a “bomb” that was really a clock has gone beyond the streets of Irving. President Obama has invited him to the White House. MIT wants him to enroll. Mark Zuckberg wants him to work at Facebook.
Ahmed’s story struck such a nerve because the world saw a model student thrown in handcuffs like a suspect whose crime was being brown. Where most would see a white kid holding a crude electronic clock, the school apparently saw a Muslim terrorist.
Walking up to Ahmed’s house and seeing the media, I wondered, What more is there to write?
“The only real news I have for you is that Ahmed’s not going back to MacArthur,” family spokesperson Alia Salem from the Council on American-Islamic Relations tells me. “But, we’re about to drive to the television studio in a minute. Why don’t you come along? Sit next to Ahmed, you can ask him your questions.”
Before we left for the television studio, Ahmed had taken me into his bedroom to show me the now-famous desk where everything gets built. I asked if I could take a picture; he nodded and sat on his desk chair holding up a tangle of wires, and, seeing his Koran, grabbed it from his desk and held it up next to the wires. Eyman comes in, sees me taking pictures, and asks Ahmed, “Why are you holding the Koran?”
“I don’t know.”
In any event, she tells us we’ve got to go.
“You’re gonna be late for TV. Like, you’re going to be on it! We can’t be late!”
I climb into the way back of the family minivan. Ahmed sits to my left; Alia and Ahmed’s oldest sister, Eyman, sit in the middle row; Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed drives; riding shotgun is Abbas Abdullah, youth leader at the local mosque.
Alia looks up from her phone: “OK, the two newest that came through are Stephen Colbert and Ellen DeGeneres.”
Ahmed is still in awe, looking at a photo of himself on Twitter.
“Oh, man, they can see my address in the background!”
Ahmed shows me a photo of his clock we find on Twitter and the photo of him in handcuffs and a NASA T-shirt in the police station. I ask him particulars about the incident but he’s lost in Twitter again.
“Ever heard that phrase, ‘15 minutes of fame?’” I ask him.
Ahmed looks at me, fat grin on his face: “This is gonna be soooooo much longer.”
Ahmed may be the most famous teenager on Earth, but he is still a teenager, which means getting permission from his father before traveling.
“Dad, I have to ask you a question,” Alia says, “Stephen Colbert in New York City, The Late Show, wants Ahmed to fly out to New York tomorrow. It’s a really, really, really, really big show.”
“I don’t know,” he replies.
“I want Ellen!” Eyman interrupts, meaning Ellen DeGeneres’s show.
“There’s also Ellen,” Alia patiently nods.
Abbas asks what the teenagers plan to do with all this exposure.
“What I’m saying is, like, scholarships and jobs can come from this, if you sit down and talk to the right people who have influence, that would be the best call. So you don’t wanna just ‘Oh, I wanna go on this show, and go on this show.’”
Ahmed breaks in with news.
“Twitter says they’d like to intern me! Twitter would like to intern me! One hour ago, they said it.”
“Ahmed, what about Stephen Colbert?” Alia asks him.
“Um, OK.” That’s his response to Stephen Colbert. “I heard about the show before.”
Ahmed asks if he can use my phone to Google the Late Show host and then says: “I’m worried about your data.’ I tell him it’s unlimited. “OK, phew.”
After the MSNBC segment, Eyman and I sit down in the hallway where she says the same thing happened to her as Ahmed.
“I got suspended from school for three days from this stupid same district, from this girl saying I wanted to blow up the school, something I had nothing to do with.”
Eyman talks with the slightest lisp, almost imperceptible, but it becomes stronger as she gets emotional.
“I got suspended and I didn’t do anything about it and so when I heard about Ahmed, I was so mad because it happened to me and I didn’t get to stand up, so I’m making sure he’s standing up because it’s not right. So I’m not jealous, I’m kinda like—it’s like he’s standing for me.”
Eyman said her suspension was in her first year of middle school, “my first year of attempting middle school in America. I knew English, but the culture was different, the people were different.”
This part of Texas is a hotbed of Islamophobia. Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne in March claimed Muslim clergy were “bypassing American courts” by offering to mediate disputes between worshippers according to Islamic law. Residents of Farmersville last month fought against creation of a Muslim cemetery in their town. Garland was the site of a “draw Muhammad” contest hosted by anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller that was subsequently attacked by two gunmen inspired by ISIS.
She says she thought it was easier for boys to be Muslims than girls because of the hijab.
Via: The Daily Beast