#IStandWithAhmed has quickly become one of this weeks’ most talked about topics. Freshman Mohamed Ahmed, a kid who lives in my hometown and attends the high school just down the street from my family was suspended and arrested for bringing a clock to school. While his story turned out happy- with invites pouring in from the White House, Facebook, Twitter, and even his dream college MIT, it’s also a reminder of many underlying societal issues we face as a nation.
Islamophobia in education is more rampant than we are willing to admit. In 2011, Huffington Post published an article on Omar, an 8th grader whose teacher wrote in his yearbook “You boys were so much fun on the 8th grade trip! Thanks for not bombing anything while we were there!” Despite the outcry, little was done by the school to address the comment.
While my own high school was a welcoming environment, I’ve been the target of degrading and anti-Muslim comments elsewhere during my school years. These events can negatively impact a student’s educational experience and self esteem. When adults cultivate an environment where such remarks and actions as were said and done to Ahmed are deemed acceptable, it sends a message to the next generation that treating people differently because of their beliefs or the way they look is a normal thing. The same cycle of prejudices and tensions will keep repeating themselves until that environment is shut down.
The fact that Ahmed was interrogated without being allowed to contact his parents, the fact that he was arrested for allegedly building a bomb which was actually a digital clock, led to the national show of solidarity that occurred this past week. I’d like to point out though, that Ahmed is only one story, and even as it comes to a resolution, we have to keep in mind the hundreds of minority students who are figuratively handcuffed by their faculty and peers in a nation where cries for equality have become more slogan than structure.
Maryam Ahmed is a graduate of Texas Virtual Academy and a resident of Irving, Texas. She is currently studying government at UT Austin.