The 13 year American Ahmad Mohammed, inventor of home-made clock with digital display, was expecting a pat on the back from his school teacher. Instead, she cold-shouldered him and advised him to not show it to others. Later in the day his clock's alarm went off in another teacher's class who alerted the Principal. Police was called in and reportedly wanted the kid to accept in writing his 'guilt' of attempting to make a bomb, he was suspended from school for 3 days, was handcuffed, taken to a juvenile detention center and was intensely questioned. The social media came to the kid's rescue and by the evening he was 'exonerated' and released.
Led by President Obama who invited and chatted this week with Ahmad in the White House during an 'Astronomy Night' and the chiefs of Google and Facebook the saner world reinvigorated the lad's spirits with virtually a standing ovation. Offers of support poured in from within USA and outside. In my opinion the ill treatment initially meted out to Ahmad has been adequately restituted. Yet the family has reportedly decided to move bag and baggage to the 'safer environs' of Qatar.
The family and its circle of friends and advisors need to reflect more deeply on the scenario. Ahmad's questioning by the police mirrors the post-USSR mindset that was carefully cultivated with a squinted eye on vested interests and was widely publicized aiming at politico-diplomatic hegemonist gains. Add to that the retaliatory cuff by some persons claiming to shield Muslim interests. The net result is that as of today the motive of an innocently normal individual action is likely to be doubted if the doer's name or appearance suggests that he is Muslim.
Kudos to Ahmad and his parents, the kid did put his heart and mind into making a device to facilitate the human life, the world needs such acumen. Simultaneously, the world also needs the help of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Barack Obama to purge the globe of motivated prejudices and negative branding. On the social media trail of the Ahmad episode there are comments of both types but the more humane ones win - statistically and qualitatively.
Dear family & friends of Ahmad ! The whole of a human being's existence is not meant for the self; that's not the Creator's scheme. Substantial part thereof belongs to the society. God said to the Messenger: They ask you how much should they do for the sake of God; tell them to dedicate to God the utilization of all of one's resources that are not essentially needed by the owner family (Quran 2.219). The current positive name & fame of Ahmad and his family and the hordes of offers available to them on the platter are not to be under-utilized just subserving Ahmad's and his family's interests. Use it wholesomely for chipping off some of the negative mindset unjustifiably created against the community.
Dear Ahmad's family & friends, God is watching you. Do not squander away His bounties by parochially narrowing down and limiting their deployment. Instead, use and these as the 'venture capital'. Let Ahmad take a cue from Malala Yusufzai. Let him stay put in America and be the benign defiant face against prejudices and branding. Let him be inspired by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela. Grab the opportunity out of adversity. Individual existence is transient, societal life has to last longer; that's God's scheme. Be His partner in carrying the mission forward. Thank the Qataris and respectfully decline their very kind offer. You are the falcon who need not recline on the palace top; rather reconnoiter and overwhelm the mountainous terrains.
[Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India]