BY SANDRA RIANO
Ahmed Mohamed is a 14-year-old freshman who attended Macarthur High School in Irving, Texas. On September 14, 2015, Ahmed brought a homemade clock to school to show his teacher. She commended him for his work and told him to put it away. The clock beeped during his English class and his teacher requested to see it. His teacher determined it to be an explosive device and alerted the principal. Ahmed was pulled out of class, brought to a room with five officers, interrogated for over an hour, taken into custody for “possession of a hoax bomb,” was arrested, fingerprinted and then released to his family. After releasing him, the police stood by their decision and stated that Ahmed had kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.
Ahmed sparked nationwide responses and inspired the hashtag “IStandwithAhmed.” Major technology companies like Facebook and Twitter saw his arrest as an attack on his creativity and reached out to him as supporters. President Barack Obama invited Ahmed to the White House and his dream school, MIT, offered him support and a tour of the campus. Aside from the fear that his technological intrigue may fade because of this incident there is the growing fear that he was racially profiled.
There are multiple “truthers” online who are dissecting his every word and the schematics of his homemade clock but the underlying issue here is rampant islamophobia. This boy was not simply pulled aside and reprimanded, he was arrested and suspended from school because of a clock. Many argue that the clock looked like it could have been an explosive device and yet no students were evacuated from the building. If they determined that the clock was not a bomb why did they still arrest Ahmed? To embarrass and humiliate him seems to be the only explanation. This overreaction from school officials and the police force are a direct reflection of the discrimination and negative attitudes many in this country hold against those of the Islamic faith. What Ahmed faced is a reminder of the barriers Muslims face within the science field and throughout everyday life.
The week after this incident there was quite a few mentions from presidential candidates about Muslims and Islam. While Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton praised Ahmed many of the Republican Candidates used the media attention on Islamophobia to launch bigoted ideas on how we should “deal” with muslims. Candidate Ben Carson saw his Super PAC donations rise after he commented on how he would not advocate for a Muslim President of the United States. Donald Trump is a leading “birther” that believes that President Obama is a Muslim and believes that he was also born outside of the United States. Recent numbers state 54% of Trump supporters are “birthers.” During a town hall event in New Hampshire, a Trump supporter made his views clear.
“We have a problem in this country,” the man said. “It’s called Muslims. You know our current President is one. You know he’s not even an American.”
Trump, for once, remained silent when asked what he was going to do about the “muslim problem”. How can we deny islamic prejudice when the Republican frontrunner perpetuates the stigma?
What is important in this instance is not the details of the incident but the reaction that has ensued. It’s an unfortunate fact that Muslim Americans are forced to repeatedly denounce extremists within their religion. Muslims are identified with the term “terrorists” because of a grotesque double standard that makes all Muslims extremists while no other religion is defined by their radical members. Islamophobia is very much real and is very much a problem in this nation. No one should have to deal with such senseless discrimination based solely on religious beliefs, gender, race, weight or other distinguishing factors. Ahmed along with every other Muslim do not deserve to be treated like criminals, solely based on their faith.