Ahmed Mohamed has quickly become the face of injustice from islamophobia. He brought a homemade clock to school to impress his teacher and peers, only to be met with suspicion and fear. He was sent to the principal’s office, where he was taken into custody for “possessing a hoax bomb,” according to My San Antonio. He was handcuffed, fingerprinted, and interrogated, only to be sent home hours later without any charges pressed.
Mohamed’s story has become a catalyst for further discussion of the ongoing struggle in race relations. Public figures, such as Hillary Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg, and Alia Salem of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, have rallied behind Mohamed, praising him for his interest in science and engineering. Liberal media, such as the Daily Beast, have exalted Mohamed to the title of a hero against Islamophobia.
However, his future has become brighter through this adversity. Microsoft has sent him many gifts to supplement his interest in technology. Mohamed was flown out to the Google Science Fair to be a VIP. MIT has expressed interest in enrolling him. Facebook and Twitter have offered him internships. President Obama has even invited Mohamed to bring his clock to the White House.
Others dissent with skepticism for of Mohamed’s story. Comedian Bill Maher and liberal MSNBC host Chris Matthews have been particularly critical of Mohamed’s story, commenting on the fact that people are quickly assuming that the events were entirely race-based. The story itself is shaky. According to The Federalist, Mohamed’s older sister, Eyman, is speculated to have some influence in Mohamed’s responses to the media due to her resentment of being accused of having wanted to blow up her middle school. The clock was in a briefcase, which made it look like it was bomb. Administration had good reason to feel threatened, yet they had not attempted to evacuate the school in the event of the perceived bomb threat.
Even with these concerns, it is undeniable that Mohamed deserves an apology for the trouble that he faced. People should not be reading media addressing Mohamed’s story with blind fervor for his newfound success, rather with more concern for the event that occurred. Though the issue is often framed as a result of Islamophobia in Irving, Texas, the larger problem at hand is that his encounter with the police should never have reached the level that it had. Mohamed had repeatedly told the police that the alleged bomb was a clock and requested to call his family. He was denied the ability to call his family and access to a lawyer. The police violated his rights as an American citizen.
This is certainly not the first instance schools and police authorities have overreacted to the actions of a student as they had in Irving. According to New York Post writer Kyle Smith, Alex Stone, a 16-year-old white student from Summerville, SC, was arrested after he wrote a story in which he killed a dinosaur using a gun. Josh Welch, a student with ADHD, was kicked out of school for molding a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun and pretending to shoot other students with it. Though their actions may be cause of concern, the consequences of their misdeeds were far too great.
We should not let Ahmed Mohamed’s story become a convenient tale to dismiss the evils of Islamophobia, a moment where we made a small triumph against Islamophobia by elevating Mohamed. Rather, we should see Mohamed’s story as a call to action. Islamophobia is an issue that will still need to be addressed. Abuses of power from the police and from school authorities need an answer. It is a step forward for public figures to attempt to make amends to Mohamed, but it can’t stop there.