Who's behind the campaign for Ahmed, the young Muslim clockmaker?

  • 16 September 2015
Amneh Jafari Image copyright Amneh Jafari

A Texas college student wanted to show her support for Ahmed Mohamed. Twenty-four hours later, her hashtag has started a movement.

More than 700,000 people have taken to Twitter to support Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student who was arrested after bringing a homemade clock to school that was mistaken for a bomb.

Ahmed brought the clock into MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, to show his engineering teacher. After another teacher saw it, police were summoned and Ahmed was interrogated, handcuffed and placed in juvenile detention.

No charges were filed. The police later acknowledged that Ahmed's work was not dangerous. Those on social media who feel that the event was unjust and racially motivated have used #IStandWithAhmed to show their support.

The hashtag was created by Amneh Jafari, who wrote, "If his name was John he would be labelled as a genius. Since its Ahmed he's labelled as a "suspect". #doublestandards #IStandWithAhmed."

Jafari, a 23-year-old psychology student at the University of Texas Arlington (UTA), was shocked that such a young student was arrested in her state.

She told BBC Trending that as the oldest of nine children, with two siblings around Ahmed's age, "it was so close to home."

Image copyright Anil Dash
Image caption Ahmed was handcuffed and fingerprinted because of the incident

Some of her friends have siblings at MacArthur, so she saw the story early on Twitter. She wanted to raise awareness of the story in the Dallas area, and adopted the hashtag to spread the word online.

Her first tweet has been retweeted 501 times, almost twice the amount of followers she has on Twitter.

As a former president of UTA's Muslim Students' Association (MSA), discussions of anti-Islam sentiment and religious discrimination were familiar topics.

"People have misconceptions about Muslims. I went [to the MSA] to meet more people like me."

She hoped to create a hashtag that would highlight the issue of racial discrimination, and was pleasantly surprised to find that people - not just Muslims - were echoing her support for Ahmed.

"I felt like those words just had such a strong meaning. Not only does it have to do with Ahmed, but it also can stand for anyone else that's been discriminated against because of their religion, of their race, of their name."

Image copyright Twitter

The campaign has escalated quickly, with Ahmed's family creating an official @IStandWithAhmed Twitter page. A number of prominent people have also declared their support for the young engineer.

Anil Dash, co-founder of Makerbase - a directory of apps and sites, along with people who've made them - wrote on Twitter that he'll "connect Ahmed to any Maker event or hardware hacking community he wants to join and get him resources."

Dash also created a Google form for people to submit ways they could to contribute to Ahmed's future endeavours, creating an additional hashtag, #HelpAhmedMake,

As support pours in from across the world, #IStandWithAhmed continues to buoy people's awareness. President Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and Google have all used the hashtag as they invited Ahmed to meet with them - and encouraged him to keep building.

Jafari is surprised by how far her hashtag has spread.

"I thought it would just spread the word locally in Dallas, I didn't know it would get this big," she says. "It's amazing to see other people stand with us."

Blog by Olivia Lace-Evans

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