Open Letter to Ahmed Mohamed

Dear Ahmed,

I heard with great sadness about the awful experience you had after you brought a home-made clock to school. I cannot imagine how embarrassing — humiliating, even — it must have been for you to be singled out from your classmates and led away in handcuffs. I want to join the many people who have spoken out in your support and protested the way you were treated.

I also want to tell you, Ahmed, that you have nothing to be ashamed of because you did nothing wrong. You used your curiosity and intelligence to create something wonderful, and you should be very proud of that. It is the adults — the teacher, the principal, and the police — who are in the wrong and who acted disgracefully. They are the ones who should feel ashamed for letting their ignorance and prejudice guide their actions. Where normal, decent people would have seen a technological achievement by a talented teenager, they saw only threat and reacted with fear instead of admiration.

Perhaps they were jealous that never in a million years could they have created a working electronic timepiece. Or perhaps they resented you for your intelligence and creativity and felt the need to shame you by pretending your clock was a destructive weapon. Whatever their reasons, their actions show that their small minds and limited imaginations could come up with only one scenario; one in which the boy with the Muslim name is a villain.

Ahmed, do not let the stupidity of these adults change who you are or how you see the world. You see, Ahmed, people with small minds and limited imaginations need to make the entire world — and everyone in it — small enough to fit into their limited vision. They are like the blind men from the children’s story who, unable to see the full majesty of the elephant, saw it simply as a collection of ordinary objects. To the small-minded adults who work at and were called to your school, a Muslim boy cannot build a digital clock because in their small minds, Muslims only make weapons. Their limited imagination cannot allow them to see you for who you really are; a curious teenager with an interest in electronics and a talent for building things.

Ahmed, the truth is that the world is full of small-minded people with limited imaginations. They will always try to make you small enough to fit into their small minds. They will try to limit you so that you fit their limited view of themselves and of the world. You must not let this happen, Ahmed. Do not let them limit your potential. Do not let them change how you see yourself. Do not let them squeeze you into their small minds, Ahmed, because a small mind is the worst of all prisons. Instead, continue to be the curious, creative, and talented person that you are now and show these people that you refuse to be caged by their imagination or imprisoned by their minds.

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Me Versus the Haters

Just walked past a trio of Christians denouncing “sinners” on the Strip. Naturally, I stopped to chat with one of them, who was holding up a sign warning “so-called Christians, baby-killing women, homosexuals, porno freaks, rebellious women, and drunks” (notice how they have women in there TWICE, coz women are TWICE as sinful!). I approached him innocently enough and asked where I could find drunk, rebellious women. His answer – “in hell,” followed by a warning that I was headed there as well – led me to believe an interesting conversation was afoot. After he explained to me why the Bible is against drunkenness – apparently it’s because intoxication impairs judgment, which leads to sin – I wondered aloud what the good book had to say about sins that are committed in the absence of alcohol-impaired judgement. By way of example, I used drone strikes against weddings which, for the sake of argument I had to assume are ordered and carried out by sober men. He conceded that a person who orders the killing of 30 innocent people would also end up in hell, but could not explain how or why drunkenness AND the mass murder of innocents would – in the eyes of the Almighty and All-Knowing – both merit the same punishment, i.e., eternal damnation in hell. He hinted weakly at the possibility of there being different levels of hell in which the drunk lady’s suffering may be less intense than the mass murderer’s, but did not challenge God’s reasoning on this because it, as he explained to me, was so written in the book he was clutching and trying to read passages from. There was some back and forth about repentance and forgiveness but the best part came when I asked him whether it was Jesus’s style to stand in a public place and call people freaks and killers (for, the record, Jesus instructed his followers to NOT be like the hypocrites who pray loudly and in the open, thereby making a public spectacle of their religiousity.) In response, he said that Jesus had called the Pharisees “a den of vipers,” but was unable to name anyone else who was name-called by Jesus. Then I asked him how come he had not named any modern-day Pharisees on his sign, choosing instead to direct his warning against individual people with whose personal choices he disagreed. The fun finally ended when the leader – who had been using a bullhorn to “warn” passers-by of their impending damnation – came over and instructed the follower to end the conversation.