Islamophobia is well and alive in the United States. Every Muslim is regarded as a threat – whether it’s an old man with a beard or a young, bright student with an avid interest in science.
Case in point: a teenage Muslim robotics fan, who loves tinkering with electronics and likes to design radios, was handcuffed and taken to a juvenile detention center because his high school teachers thought his homemade alarm clock looked like a bomb.
Ahmed Mohamed, resident of Irving, Texas, wanted to make an impression on one of his teachers at MacArthur High, so he threw together quick invention in 20 minutes the night before school. The device consisted of a circuit board with power supply wired to a digital display, and strapped inside a pencil case.
However, to his utter disappointment, the ninth-grader did not get a good reaction from his engineering teacher, who advised him to not show his device to anyone else. Things got even worse when his clock was confiscated during English class because the alarm started beeping.
“[The teacher] was like, it looks like a bomb,” Mohamed told the Dallas News.
Later that day the 14-year-old was escorted out of class by the principal, who had called in the police. Five officers interrogated the kid about his intentions and why he brought the device to school – with one exclaiming “Yup. That’s who I thought it was” when he looked at the brown-skinned boy.
Though when the student maintained it was only a clock, they marched him out of the school like a criminal in handcuffs and took him to a juvenile detention center to take his fingerprints – even though they had no evidence that the kid had actually attempted to make a hoax bomb.
“I tried making a phone call to my father. They said, ‘You’re in the middle of an interrogation, you can’t have a phone call,'” Mohamed recalled. “I really don’t think it’s fair because I brought something to school that wasn’t a threat to anyone. I didn’t do anything wrong. I just showed my teachers something and I end up being arrested later that day.”
Fortunately, he wasn’t sent to jail. The police released Mohamed to his parents shortly after taking his fingerprints. Mohamed's parents say their son’s ethnicity and religion may have been a factor.
“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” said the boy’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who emigrated to the U.S. from Sudan. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”
Mohamed was suspended from school and could still face charges – because having an interest in electronics while being a Muslim is apparently a crime.
Mohamed’s story has also caught attention of the Council for American-Islamic Relations, which consider this abuse an act of Islamophobia.
“I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn't Ahmed Mohamed,” said Alia Salem from the Dallas chapter of CAIR. “He is an excited kid who is very bright and wants to share it with his teachers.”
Of course, social media exploded after Mohamed’s story got out:
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
Not interested in any education systems that puts a kid in handcuffs for loving science/engineering. http://t.co/DiPtl5BRyL— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) September 16, 2015
A bright, talented young boy built a clock and took it to school. Unfortunately, his name is Ahmed Mohamed. http://t.co/ngUIKGyxPX— Ghazala Irshad (@ghazalairshad) September 16, 2015
14 yo told his teachers it was a clock. Told the cops it was a clock. He was arrested. Yup. It was a clock http://t.co/VQrVJXwdor— Salvador Hernandez (@SalHernandez) September 16, 2015
Disgusting. Fire every bozo involved and issue a public apology. This isn't the America this kid deserves. http://t.co/3Laq3vKkwG— Joshua Topolsky (@joshuatopolsky) September 16, 2015
If anybody in or near Irving knows the Mohamed family, please get word to them that the entire online maker community supports Ahmed.— Anil Dash (@anildash) September 16, 2015
every single person involved in arresting this kid should be suspended http://t.co/PBYSdsjDzZ— Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) September 16, 2015