Justice

Here's Why People are Saying #IStandWithAhmed

September 16th 2015

By:
Kyle Jaeger

Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student at MacArthur High in Irving, Texas, went to school on Monday hoping to impress his teachers by showing off his latest invention, a homemade clock that the young tinkerer designed the night before. Instead, he was accused of creating a bomb, questioned by police and school officials, and taken in handcuffs to juvenile detention, Dallas News reported.

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He was suspended for three days and police say they may still decide to pursue charges against the ninth grade student despite that they "have no information that he claimed it was a bomb." Ahmed put the device together in an effort to display his talents as an inventor—one who joined the robotics club in middle school and makes radios and repairs go-karts as a hobby in his spare time.

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Ahmed says that he showed the clock to his engineering teacher early on Monday morning, and that his response was marked by apprehension. "He was like, 'That’s really nice,'" the student recalled. "'I would advise you not to show any other teachers.'"

That teacher likely understood what the 14-year-old could not about how he might be perceived as a Muslim student with a distinctly Muslim name and a homemade clock—especially in a Texas town where the mayor, Beth Van Duyne, became a "national celebrity in anti-Islamic circles" this summer for making divisive speeches about the Islamic takeover of America. He stowed the device away, but when it began beeping in a later class, another of his teachers complained and he went to show her the invention afterward.

"She was like, it looks like a bomb," he told Dallas News. "I told her, 'It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.'"

The teacher kept the clock, and in sixth period, Ahmed was pulled out of class by the principal and a police officer who led the student to a room where four additional officers were waiting. They grilled him with questions, forcing him to miss a student council meeting so that they could interrogate him about what they continued to suggest was an attempt to make, or a replica of, a homemade bomb.

"Yup. That’s who I thought it was," one officer reportedly remarked when Ahmed was brought into the room. The principal also allegedly threatened to expel the student if he did not provide a written statement.

The story of Ahmed Mohamed has rattled the country. It drives at the heart of Islamophobia, demonstrating that for those with Muslim backgrounds, prejudice and profiling continues to pose problems in the U.S. Ahmed's parents were able to pick him up from the juvenile detention center, and he is currently sitting at home, comforted by his parents and the words of support from strangers online, including Democratic primary presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who encouraged the student to "stay curious and keep building."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also voiced concern over the treatment of Ahmed.

"This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” Alia Salem, who directs the council’s North Texas chapter, told Dallas News.

"We're still investigating, but it seems pretty egregious," she added.

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Since the news of Ahmed's experience got out, an outpouring of support has flooded social media, marked by the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed.

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