October 20, 2015; Washington Post
Just 24 hours after Ahmed Mohamed took President Barack Obama up his offer to visit the White House, the Mohamed family announced that they were moving to Qatar. But it wasn’t just his “fame” after being falsely branded a domestic terrorist that may have chased Ahmed away. The 14-year-old wunderkind has received a full scholarship from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development as part of its QF Young Innovators Program. Both his high school and college education will be fully funded by the foundation.
Undoubtedly, Ahmed will thrive in this environment, particularly because the university is renowned for its alliances with top universities like Georgetown University, Northwestern University and University College of London—not only in STEM education, but also in journalism, international affairs, and museum studies.
However, what’s concerning about Ahmed’s decision is how the Qatar Foundation’s offer completely overshadows the offers from the American nonprofit sector. We note that along with Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, and even the White House, MIT and Harvard University, both private nonprofit entities, publically offered invitations to visit and apply. Ahmed and his family’s decision to leave the country instead of pursuing admission at two of the best universities in the world speaks volumes of this country’s failure of inclusion.
In explaining his family’s decision, Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, said, “We are going to move to a place where my kids can study and learn, and all of them being accepted by that country.”
His and his family’s actions are particularly important considering that many Muslims are reluctant to report incidents of abuse, according to a recent study by researchers from Birmingham City University and Nottingham Trent University in England. In what is considered the first study of its kind, the report delves into anti-Muslim crimes and their impact on the Muslim community. The report found that not only do many victims not report crimes against them, they also receive little support from witnesses to the abuse, as seen in Simone Joseph’s incident on a London bus.
“This research reveals worrying levels of fear and intimidation experienced by many Muslims, compounded by a lack of support from the wider public when facing physical threats in the real world and an absence of tough action from social media platforms at the abuse people are receiving online,” said Imran Awan, one of the researchers of the study.
However, this is not to say that the general public has not shown support for Ahmed and condemned Islamophobic attacks. As noted, several companies and universities publically took a stand supporting Ahmed and wanting to aid in his education. But when you have public figures like Ben Carson apparently voicing the opinion that Muslims should not run for president, a view that is shared by 30 percent of Americans, the Muslim community needs more than just a few companies vying for Internet brownie points.
Those who participated in the study also said that the attacks must be addressed from within the Muslim community itself. Awan said, “Participants argued that anti-Muslim hate must be challenged from within Muslim communities—too often reluctant to report abuse or attacks—and that the public should intervene and assist victims of anti-Muslim hate where possible.”
The Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been on the forefront of advocating for the American Muslim community. Since Ahmed’s arrest, the Dallas–Fort Worth chapter of CAIR is launching an investigation into the school districts in and around the area in Texas where Ahmed previously attended school. But still, the Muslim community needs more.
The nonprofit community may not be advancing anti-Muslim sentiment in America, but it’s not doing enough to combat it, either. Promoting inclusion is instrumental as the sector tries to rein in and retain the racially diverse millennial generation. If the sector is looking for a better moment to make its stand, it is unlikely to find it.—Shafaq Hasan