What Ahmed's Decision to Go to Qatar Says About America

October 20th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

Just a day after meeting President Obama at the White House, Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old inventor who was arrested after a teacher suspected that the homemade clock he brought to class was a bomb, announced that he is moving to Qatar to attend the prestigious Qatar Foundation Young Innovators Program. And that's not as surprising as some might expect.

America's attitude.

Restricting immigration policy in the U.S., coupled with xenophobic attitudes, have made the country less appealing to foreign tech talent, as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously suggested. Ahmed's decision to move to Qatar was motivated, in part, by conspiracy theories alleging that the clock incident was a "pre-planned plot to get attention," the Washington Post reported.

"After careful consideration of all the generous offers received, we would like to announce that we have accepted a kind offer from Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) for Ahmed to join the prestigious QF Young Innovators Program, which reflects the organization’s on-going dedication to empowering young people and fostering a culture of innovation and creativity," Ahmed's family said in a statement Tuesday.

Last month, Ahmed made a clock and brought it to his high school in Irving, Texas, in an effort to impress his teachers. But when the clock beeped in one of his classes, a teacher notified school administrators; they contacted law enforcement officials and arrested Ahmed, releasing him to his parents hours later. The story garnered national attention after the public learned about the apparently xenophobic rationale behind the administration's response.

RELATED: Ahmed Mohamed's Hometown Has an Alarming History of Islamophobia

Shortly after news of the arrest got out, Obama published a Tweet inviting Ahmed to the White House. "Cool clock, Ahmed," Obama wrote. "We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great."

Ahmed followed up on that invitation, attending an "Astronomy Night" event at the White House on Monday. And while he expressed excitement over the opportunity, that did not stop him from accepting an offer from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

Immigration reform.

Zuckerberg has been an outspoken advocate for immigration reform in the U.S. for this very reason—to keep bright young people in the United States. The country's complex immigration process has kept tech talent from coming to the U.S., allowing other countries to scoop up innovators. There are also burgeoning tech hubs outside of the U.S. Zuckerberg is one of several tech leaders who started FWD.us, a company designed to "mobilize the tech community to support policies that keep the American Dream achievable in the 21st century."

"For many, the American Dream seems to be falling out of reach: mobility is stagnant and too many are denied the opportunity to achieve their full potential," a statement on the FWD.us website reads. "Our immigration system is fundamentally broken and outdated."

"Our community needs to reckon with these challenges. The new knowledge economy has the potential to produce dynamism as well as dislocation, innovation as well as inequality. It’s up to us to fashion a future that reflects tech’s best values and virtues. We must push for policies that not only move the knowledge economy forward, but give everyone the opportunity to participate in it. Every day we bring incredible ingenuity and passion to our work; it’s time to bring that same spirit to our democracy."

Ahmed Mohamed movingly addressed his experience with bullying and discrimination. #IStandWithAhmed

Posted by ATTN: on Thursday, September 17, 2015