â€œThat could have been me, arrested for doing what I love, because of my religion,â€ 21-year-old Amna Magzoub, a Sudanese Muslim studying mechanical engineering at MIT, told the Guardian.
For Magzoub and her Muslim colleagues, the story of Ahmed Mohamed and his clock is not an isolated incident.
A few months ago, MIT Muslim students have been a target of hate campaign when an Islamophobic group created a video calling MIT a hotbed of terror.
The slick video left Muslim students â€œuncomfortableâ€ and â€œafraid to be Muslim on campusâ€ at that time.
More recently, anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali gave an inflammatory talk on campus last week, despite Muslimsâ€™ opposition to the event.
â€œIâ€™d been feeling like my religion was under attack,â€ says Magzoub.
â€œSo the positive reaction to Ahmed was a relief.â€
Many Muslim students in the sciences, tech, engineering and math (Stem) see Ahmedâ€™s case as just one example of assumptions Muslim students and scientists must fight.
â€œAhmed has proven he is a really capable Muslim engineer,â€ Thariq Shihipar, a 24-year-old graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, said.
â€œThe more of us that are visible, that will give us the ability to narrate how people see us. We could change peopleâ€™s minds.â€
Religion is the main challenge that faces Muslim scientists who are encountering discrimination on a daily basis.
â€œThere seems to be this shadow that exists, you just canâ€™t seem to escape. You can try to live underneath it and you can try to do what you want to do underneath it,â€ said Rashied Amini, an Iranian American.
â€œIâ€™m a NASA JPL systems engineer, a physics PhD student, and founded a company in scientific romantic decision analysis. I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™d be doing any of these things if I had to deal with the same level of intolerance that Ahmed went through.
â€œI was very lucky in that I got a lot of support from my teachers back in high school â€“but I still encountered racism along the way, even from the very mentors that helped me.â€
Bigotry faced by Ahmed reminded many Stem Muslim students and scientists of discrimination they have faced for pursuing the scientific field.
â€œLetâ€™s face it, Mohammad â€“ you arenâ€™t bright enough,â€ Mohammad Ali, who now has three degrees from Stanford and works as a corporate lawyer doing capital markets/securities work for investment banks and tech companies, was told.
The 27-year-old Muslim recounted how his high school taunted him after asking her to transfer into advanced honors and AP classes.
â€œIf I had taken her advice to heart that Iâ€™m not bright enough, I canâ€™t imagine that I would have had a successful career like 10 years down the road,â€ Ali said.
Another student, Abubakar Abid, who is pursuing his masterâ€™s degree in electrical engineering at MIT, recalled when his Pakistani parents warned him against taking any nuclear science courses, to avoid suspicion.
â€œThese are obstacles other kids donâ€™t have to worry about,â€ said Abid, 22.
Abid and Magzoub are among Stem Muslim students who have encouraged Ahmed and other young Muslims to pursue scientific field and defy challenges.
â€œMuslims in America traditionally havenâ€™t been a part of shaping the social fabric through media or politics because we donâ€™t have the infrastructure,â€ said Abid.
â€œBut one way we can make an impact is through social entrepreneurship and leaving a cultural footprint.â€
Citing discrimination against Stem Muslim students and scientists, many Muslim students decided not to pursue the scientific field.
â€œI am currently a sophomore doing Chemical Engineering, but I really wanted to switch to Aerospace Engineering, yet my parents claim that I wonâ€™t be able to do anything with my degree since I am a Muslim girl and I wear a scarf. Is this true?â€ Zahra Khan, a 31-year-old aerospace engineer at MIT who advises aspiring young female engineers at EngineerGirl.org, said.
Arresting the 14-year-old Ahmed and suspending him after bringing a homemade clock to school has resulted in creatingÂ a young Muslim hero.
#IstandwithAhmed has begun trending on social media and has drawn support not just from the United States, but the rest of the world.
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