Our social media feeds were flooded last week with the story of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student in Irving, Texas. Mohamed was wrongfully detained by police following the discovery of a clock teachers thought resembled a bomb. He has since received an outpouring of support, including numerous celebrities speaking out on his behalf and even an invitation to the White House from President Obama.
Colour and race are prevalent in this case. Islamophobia is, unfortunately, an irrational anxiety pushed by fearmongers everywhere. Muslim boy in a school with a device that has numbers on it? Must be a bomb. Mohamed was handcuffed, interrogated, and eventually freed, but one has to wonder how on earth any of this was allowed to happen.
According to reports, the alarm clock went off during one of Mohamed’s classes, leading to its discovery by a teacher who was unaware of his clock and to Mohamed’s subsequent detention. The “bomb” had already gone off—its greatest threat, alerting any and all in the vicinity that it was a certain time of day, was spent. Why were officers called? Why wasn’t the school evacuated? Why wasn’t the bomb squad called? This was a serious bomb threat, wasn’t it? Instead, everyone dawdled around, scaring the living daylights out of some innocent kid, waiting for the usual dose of an unnecessary show of police force—in this case, handcuffs.
Critical thinking requires an examination from either side. However, I feel the need to preface my words. I don’t condone any of the actions taken by either the school or the police in this matter. The relevant authorities were wholly and completely in the wrong. Regardless of any other aspect or detail, such treatment of a Grade 9 student who obviously wasn’t a danger to anyone, is completely inappropriate and inexcusable.
An affinity for tinkering with tech is not a hobby that even a minority of the population is capable of. We can assume that Mohamed is a bright, aware young man. But his intelligence is one of the main reasons some red flags can be raised.
An alarm clock most definitely needs something to contain it, but why choose something so easily associated (thanks, Hollywood) with an explosive device? The case already selected though, and the aforementioned constant possibility of Islamophobia being a common and strong fear, why was Mohamed allowed to take it to school? The issue is raised again when the first teacher Mohamed showed the alarm to supposedly told him not to show it to other teachers—a wise piece of advice. However, the clock goes off during another class and the rest is history.
But why have the clock go off? Especially having been told by a teacher who was clearly on friendlier terms with Mohamed, wouldn’t it make sense to deactivate, or at least mute the device? In addition to this, Mohamed mentions in an interview that he didn’t lock the box, instead using a simple cable so it wouldn’t seem “suspicious.” It’s his use of the word suspicious that truly throws me. It implies that he was fully aware of how his invention could be construed and was trying to make it less so. One can further infer that due to this knowledge, he has a decent understanding of Islamophobia and the spotlight upon himself because of it.
None of it quite checks out for me. Though all the extreme right wing stories about how he probably didn’t build the clock and such are irrelevant. The kid’s backstory works: he’s made gadgets for friends as presents. He knows his stuff. My issue is that he’s too smart and too aware to allow himself to fall into an easily avoidable situation. All of this leads to the possibility that this was planned.
And it may not have been only Mohamed’s own doing. Despite the temporary fallout, in North America’s simultaneously racially oversensitive and insensitive culture, it wouldn’t be difficult to see how the event could play out. There would be the initial overreaction to the discovery, an equal overreaction from the police, and then the endless social media backlash for all involved authorities as the victim is praised to the high heavens.
Going along with this for a moment, what would be the motive? For one, personal fame is instant. The Twitter account @IStandWithAhmed has over 100,000 followers. Mark Zuckerberg and innumerable others are behind him. Microsoft even sent the kid a ton of their products. If he ever wants to do something entrepreneurial, or anything for that matter, he’s already got his own brand.
But perhaps the issue was bigger than that. Personal fame aside, maybe Mohamed just wanted to draw attention to Islamophobia. Irrational fears are only ever stopped when it becomes popular opinion to be opposed to them. Having a young student be handcuffed for bringing a clock to school? Pretty ridiculous. Very difficult to support that action. Being an Islamophobe after that is definitely contrary to popular opinion.
Much food for thought here, whether you’re a right winger, left winger, or just a sensible thinker.