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.
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?)
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.
But the news is not all bad. Ahmed’s arrest sparked the the #IStandWithAhmed and #EngineersforAhmed hashtags, overwhelming him and his family with online support. And that’s not all.
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.”