Saturday 1 October 2016

'Clock bomb' arrest boy over the moon at Obama astronomy visit

Published 20/10/2015 | 02:36

Selfie respect: John Grunsfeld, Nasa's Science Mission Directorate associate administrator, takes a photo with Ahmed Mohamed, right, at the White House (AP)
Selfie respect: John Grunsfeld, Nasa's Science Mission Directorate associate administrator, takes a photo with Ahmed Mohamed, right, at the White House (AP)

A Texas teenager arrested after a home-made clock he brought to school was mistaken for a bomb has capped a whirlwind month with a visit to the White House and a chat with President Barack Obama.

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Ahmed Mohamed received a personal invitation from Mr Obama for Astronomy Night, an event the president uses to encourage young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The two met and talked briefly.

Ahmed, 14, said he was grateful for the president's support and said he was OK with the "clock kid" nickname that so many have given him over the past few weeks. He said the lesson of his experience was: "Don't judge a person by the way they look. Always judge them by their heart."

The teenager brought the clock to at MacArthur High School in Irving last month to show a teacher, but another teacher thought it could be a bomb. The school contacted police, who ultimately chose not to charge Ahmed with having a hoax bomb, though he was suspended from school for three days.

Mr Obama subsequently tweeted an invitation to Ahmed and said the US should inspire more pupils like him to enjoy science.

Ahmed's family is looking at several options for a new school. He hopes to eventually go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and become an engineer.

But the White House invitation brought some backlash. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz complained that Mr Obama did not give police the same respect he was giving Ahmed.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president had made clear in many settings the respect he had for law enforcement officers.

Ahmed said he had visited Google and Facebook, along with other companies and institutions in recent weeks. He also travelled to Sudan where he met President Omar Bashir, which has prompted some criticism because Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide and war crimes charges for atrocities linked to fighting in Darfur.

Advisers deflected a question on that topic and instructed Ahmed to not answer. Ahmed's family are Sudanese immigrants and his father is a former presidential candidate.

Ahmed was also honoured during a banquet on Saturday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil liberties group for Muslims.

At the astronomy event he posed for pictures with Nasa astronaut Alvin Drew shortly before Mr Obama addressed the students on the South Lawn.

Mr Obama noted that Nasa was developing the capabilities to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

"That means some of the young people who are here tonight might be working on that project," he said. "Some of you might be on your way to Mars. America can do anything."

The students visiting the South Lawn of the White House got the chance to explore samples of rocks from the moon, Mars and various meteorites. They met astronauts and peered at the planets and stars through telescopes.

Press Association

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