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Muslim spokesman: As boy departs, Muslims feel ‘under siege’

Irving (US): The decision by the family of a Texas teenager to move to Qatar is not surprising in light of lingering anti-Muslim sentiment that makes many US followers of Islam feel as if they are “under siege,” a spokesman for a national Muslim-American group has said.

The teen, Ahmed Mohamed, shot to national prominence last month after he was arrested for bringing a homemade digital clock to school that a teacher mistook for a possible bomb.

On Tuesday, the family announced that they would soon leave their modest home in the Dallas suburb of Irving and move to Qatar, a wealthy oil nation on the Persian Gulf. There, a foundation has offered to pay for Ahmed’s high school and college education in Doha.

Yaser Birjas, imam of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving, said he wishes the 14-year-old well but worries about the stress that can come with celebrity.

“I hope that he does not get overwhelmed and consumed with that because now the expectation of him is so high,” Birjas said. “And he’s just a kid.”

Birjas cautioned that people who move from America to Muslim countries are often disappointed when they discover restrictions they never experienced in the US.

“Here in America, you have much more freedom practicing the faith,” he said.

For others, the family move to the Middle East sends an unfortunate message.

Yousuf Fahimuddin, a Muslim journalist in the San Francisco Bay area, believes the family’s departure will only perpetuate the idea that Muslims are not loyal to the US.

“I don’t think moving to Qatar, a country with its own share of problems, constructively helps fight prejudice,” Fahimuddin said in an email.

Instead, he said, “Muslims should try to share their common humanity with others to demonstrate that they are regular people.”

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, yesterday said the US has seen a significant rise in the level of anti-Muslim sentiment — feelings he said were reflected by the political attacks of Republican presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

“The Muslim-American community feels under siege by all this,” Hooper said.

Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, told The Dallas Morning News that the family was moving “to a place where my kids can study and learn and all of them being accepted by that country.