The arrest of a Texas high-school freshman for bringing a homemade clock to school has reached all the way to the White House, but police insist he wasn’t taken into custody because he’s Muslim.
According to the Dallas Morning News, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed — who was immersed in building electronics and robotics in middle school — made a clock Sunday night that he showed to his engineering teacher on Monday morning.
“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”
He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward.
“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.
“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”
The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back.
They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”
Wearing a NASA T-shirt, Ahmed was handcuffed, led out of the school by two officers, and released to his parents at the juvenile detention center.
Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, is a longtime Irving, Texas, resident who has run for president of his country of origin, Sudan. He’s created taxi, investment and solar energy companies, and has six other children in addition to Ahmed. He once debated Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who burned the Quran. “He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” Mohamed told the paper. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of September 11, I think my son got mistreated.”
The school principal sent a letter to parents saying that Irving police had “responded to a suspicious-looking item on campus” but they determined that “the item … did not pose a threat to your child’s safety.”
Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said at a press conference today that officers arrested the boy for bringing a “hoax bomb,” but he called it a “naive accident.” The chief added that the “case is considered closed” and insisted “the reaction would have been the same regardless” of the boy’s skin color.
Support for Ahmed has swelled since the incident, from being the top trending topic on Twitter to getting offers for free electronics, a Google visit, science magnet schools and programs and more.
— Liz Heron (@lheron) September 16, 2015
— Sylvain Deville (@DevilleSy) September 16, 2015
And politicians jumped on the story as well:
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.
— President Obama (@POTUS) September 16, 2015
We need to be encouraging young engineers, not putting them in handcuffs. #IStandWithAhmed
— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) September 16, 2015
Assumptions and fear don’t keep us safe—they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building. https://t.co/ywrlHUw3g1
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 16, 2015