A Muslim ninth-grade boy was arrested in Texas after bringing to school a home-built digital clock which teachers mistook to be a bomb.
Ahmed Mohamed, 14, who had a keen interest in mechanics and a talent for making mechanical gadgets, had intended to impress his engineering teacher by presenting a digital clock which he had made himself. However, the teacher instantly became wary.
Describing his teacher’s reaction, Mohamed said, “He was like, ‘That’s really nice. I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”
However, during an English class, the clock beeped and when his teacher saw it, she said it looked like a bomb. Mohamed, who had made his own radios and once built a Bluetooth speaker as a gift for his friend, answered that “it doesn’t look like a bomb to me” but the clock was still confiscated and later on in the day, the boy was pulled out of his class by the principal.
“They took me to a room filled with five officers in which they interrogated me and searched through my stuff and took my tablet and my invention. “They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’ I told them no, I was trying to make a clock,” the boy explained.
However, the official insisted that it looked like a bomb, after which he was taken to the police headquarters, handcuffed and fingerprinted. Once there, he was interrogated and was not allowed to call his parents. Mohamed recounted that officers kept bringing up his last name.
“I really don’t think it’s fair because I brought something to school that wasn’t a threat to anyone,” Mohamed said adding that “I didn’t do anything wrong. I just showed my teachers something and I end up being arrested later that day.”
Irving Independent School District spokesperson Lesley Weaver released a statement confirming that a MacArthur High School student was arrested on campus but she refused to discuss the case.
“We always ask our students and staff to immediately report if they observe any suspicious items or behaviour. If something is out of the ordinary, the information should be reported immediately to a school administrator and/or the police so it can be addressed right away. We will always take necessary precautions to protect our students and keep our school community as safe as possible,” the statement read.
A police report released on Tuesday cited a “hoax bomb” incident, listing three MacArthur High teachers as complainants against Mohamed.
Irving Police Officer James McLellan said in an interview to a local TV channel that the school officials and officers had been anxious about the device. “It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?” he said.
“Clearly, there were disassembled clock parts in there, but he offered no more explanation than that. A lot of these details that the family and he have provided to you were not shared with us yesterday. He was very much less than forthcoming,” the officer added.
Mohamed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, blamed the incident on Islamophobia and informed that his son had been suspended from school for three days. “He just wants to invent good things for mankind. But because his name is Mohamed and because of September 11, I think my son got mistreated,” said his father.
Muram Ibrahim, a 15-year-old cousin of Mohamed’s who was part of his middle school robotics team, was shocked to find out how he had been treated. “It just shocked me that people could do this to him. He’s a 14-year-old boy and he’s a genius,” she said, recalling how her teammates used to call her younger cousin over whenever they needed help.
“I thought there’s a lot of diversity at Irving [Independent School District] and I thought that it was different from other school districts. But I was wrong and it makes me really sad that I’m wrong,” she said.
Ibrahim also informed that she helped organise a protest at Irving schools, encouraging students to bring clocks to school in a show of solidarity. But as for Mohamed, he is still battling the memories of the handcuffs around his wrists.
“It made me feel like I wasn’t human,” he said in a video interview. “It made me feel like a criminal.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said they would be looking into the case and would be meeting with MacArthur High School principal and the Irving police chief on Wednesday, along with the Mohameds.
“I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed,” Alia Salem, CAIR’s executive director for the Dallas-Fort Worth region said.
The incident has caused outrage on social media, with people tweeting to show their support for Mohamed.
This article originally appeared on Washington Post