A 14-year-old high school freshman and budding scientist build his own clock, and brought it to school to show his teacher. Instead, he got arrested, and wingnuts lost their minds. Because he was Muslim, of course.
When 14-year-old freshman Ahmed Mohamed arrived at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, he was excited. He’d built a small electronic clock, and couldn’t wait to show it to his engineering teacher. Ahmed already sounds like the kind of kid any teacher would want to encourage. After all, he took extra time to work on a project that he wasn’t assigned, for no other reason than he was interested in learning and wanted to do it.
Instead, Ahmed’s teacher thought the clock looked like a bomb. Though Ahmed insisted it wasn’t, authorities at the school didn’t believe him. The teacher kept the clock. Meanwhile the principle and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of class, and led him to a room where he was questioned by four police officers who just knew it would be the Muslim kid who would try build a bomb.
Ahmed’s sister told me to post this. Yes this situation is real for those questioning. pic.twitter.com/Oxd0JxUS6O
— Prajwol/Ru (@OfficalPrajwol) September 16, 2015
It got worse. Never mind that for it to be a “hoax bomb,” Ahmed would have had to claim that it was a bomb, even though it wasn’t. That he never stopped insisting that it was not a bomb means it couldn’t be a “hoax bomb.”
- The police justified the arrest, because according to police spokesman James MacLellan, the boy “was unable to give a ‘broader explanation’ as to what it would be used for.” (Like, telling time, maybe?)
- The chief of police backed the arrest, even after admitting the police knew it wasn’t a bomb.
- Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne defended the school and the police. “I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat,” Van Duyne wrote in a statement posted to her Facebook page.
That’s not a surprise. Irving, Texas, is a hotbed of Islamophobia and “sharia law” panic. Mayor Van Duyne herself came under fire earlier this year for condemning a rumored “Islamic Sharia Court” in Irving, which she claimed was set up by Muslims trying to “bypass” American courts. Van Duyne, with backing from Glenn Beck and Frank Gaffney, convinced the city council to ban the non-existent problem of “sharia law” in Irving.
- President Obama tweeted his support, and an invitation to the White House: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the him to “stay curious and keep building.”
- Rep. Keith Ellison (D, Minnesota), the only Muslim member of the House, began carrying a clock around the Capitol. In a show of support, Ellison placed the clock on the podium while he spoke about climate change at a Congressional Black Caucus conference.
- During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Ahmed was surprised when Hayes brought in astrophysicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and the Department of Physics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) — Ahmed’s “dream school.” “I just want to say, you are my ideal student,” Prescod-Weinstein told the teen, and extended an invitation to visit MIT.
Naturally, wingnuts were not pleased with this heartwarming turn of events.
- During the GOP undercard debate, presidential candidates Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal a Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) used a question about Ahmed’s arrest to call for more racial profiling.
- Jindal and Davis even said the arrest of Kentucky county Clerk Kim Davis was worse than Ahmed’s arrest.
- Alaska’s most famous baby mama Bristol Palin ranted on her PATHEOS blog: “This is the kind of stuff Obama needs to STAY out of. This encourages more racial strife that is already going on with the “Black Lives Matter” crowd and encourages victimhood.”
- Fox host Andrea Tantaros slammed president Obama for supporting Ahmed. What the president did,“ Tantaros said, ”by elevating this story to national attention, is he basically got rid of ‘if you see something, say something.’”
- Tantaros also said Ahmed “did a really dumb thing” by building a clock and bringing it to school.
- Right-winger Pamela Geller, who organized an anti-Islam art contest in Garland, Texas, said Ahmed’s arrest was a plot by the Obama administration to undermine national security and make Islamophobes look racist. (Like they need the help.)
- Anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney tweeted: “Why wouldn’t #Ahmed answer officer questions. Invokes suspicion.”
The show of support turned a traumatizing experience into a uplifting experience.
After a whirlwind week, Ahmed said, “I see it as a way of people sending a message to the rest of the world that just because something happens to you because of who you are, no matter what you do, people will always have your back.”
MacArthur High School has invited Ahmed back, after his suspension (which they haven’t had the good sense to rescind). His family says Ahmed is not returning to MacArthur. But he would like his clock back.