By Arab News
By Ibrahim Nafee
Saudi Arabia is hosting for Umrah the American student who was recently wrongfully arrested after a teacher at his school in Texas mistook his homemade clock for a bomb.
Ahmed Mohammed Al-Hassan, who is of Sudanese origin, would also visit relatives in Jeddah during his trip, according to Al-Tayyeb Abdul Raheem, spokesman of the US Consulate in Jeddah. His arrival date has not been confirmed yet.
Awad Qarshom, head of the Sudanese community, told Arab News: “We appreciate this decision by the Kingdom. We intend to have a reception to honor this student. We are trying to cooperate with the Sudanese Consulate in Jeddah to set up a special event.”
The plight of the youngster caused a media storm in the United States, with President Barak Obama expressing his support and inviting him to visit the White House with his clock.
Other politicians and activists also expressed support for Al-Hassan, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Al-Hassan was a student at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, when he was arrested in September because his teacher suspected his clock was a bomb.
His uncle Moussa Al-Hassan did not blame the teacher. “The ordinary American citizen lives in a state of fear of Arabs because of the American media’s portrayal of him as an extremist terrorist,” Moussa was quoted as saying at the time.
The clock, which Al-Hassan built in 20 minutes using basic materials, led to his arrest by Texas police. Ahmed could not go to school for three days, and the incident has sparked widespread anger that he was unfairly treated.
His arrest is loosely reminiscent of a similar experience his grandfather had, also at the age of 14, in the family’s Sudanese village of Shatoy. “My father was passionate about science,” Moussa recalled. “Aware that the schools affiliated with the British occupation were the best, he ran away to study in the city of Omdurman, even though his father strongly opposed those schools.”
But after he had walked several kilometers on foot, “one of the local residents caught him, held him for several hours, and sent him back to his family,” Moussa said. “He returned to the Khalawie schools, which the Sudanese prefer to the British schools.”