Ahmed Mohamed was just 14 when he was arrested last September in Irving, Texas. The charge? He was accused of bringing a bomb to school, of being a suspected terrorist. The reality? He was a young inventor, making his own radios and repairing his own go-kart. According to The Guardian, everybody in middle school knew Mohamed as “the kid who makes crazy contraptions”, and who fixed electronics classmates brought to him, earning him the nickname “Inventor Kid”. Last September, he built a working clock out of discarded parts, and he was proud of his invention … he wanted to show it to his teachers at school, especially his engineering teacher. But at least one teacher was unimpressed with his invention, and claiming that she thought it was a bomb, she confiscated it and reported him to the school’s principal. Local law enforcement was called and Mohamed was questioned by police for an hour and a half.
“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’”
“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”
“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”
Ahmed was led out of the school at 3 p.m., his hands cuffed behind him. He was sent to a juvenile detention center where he was fingerprinted, required to take a mug shot, and further questioned before being released to his parents. The principal suspended him for three days. Two days later, Police Chief Larry Body said Ahmed would not be charged. “We have no evidence to support that there was an intention to create alarm or cause people to be concerned,” he said.
This, folks, is what happens when we let fear whip us into a feeding frenzy. We forget our humanity and judge people by race, skin colour, religion, or national origin. We put the lives of innocent people in danger because we have listened to those who said we must “be afraid … be very afraid” of people who are different in one way or another.
Even though he was found to be innocent of any wrongdoing, Ahmed’s life changed that day.
Ahmed received much positive support, including being invited to the White House by President Obama, and invitations to Google’s science fair, and the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City, among others. But he also received negative feedback, including becoming the target of conspiracy theorists. Some conservative commentators sought to cast suspicion on the Mohamed family and Muslim groups that supported Ahmed after his detainment, positing that Mohamed planned to provoke his arrest to embarrass police and speculating the incident was a plot orchestrated by Islamist activists.
A segment that aired on The Blaze last September featuring host Glenn Beck discussing the teen’s arrest with guests Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne and Jim Hanson, the executive vice president of the Center for Security Policy. Beck and Hanson theorized that Islamist extremists or the Mohamed family may have directed the teen to bring the clock to school as a stunt.
In October 2015, the family made the decision to move back to Qatar, where they lived until last month when they returned to the U.S. for the summer to visit friends and relatives. They plan to return to Qatar at the end of summer. “For the safety of my family, I have to go back to Qatar, because right now it’s not very safe for my family or for anyone who’s a minority,” Ahmed said at a news conference in Texas in August. “I can’t walk out of the house without being covered up because I might get shot, because that happens here.” Since their return to the U.S. last month, here is a sampling of some of the messages Ahmed has received on Twitter:
- “should have never let those terrorists back in the US”
- “That Little Bastard Needs to Leave American Soil.”
- “Go back!”
- There’s one with a picture of a plastic bag. “Since you left there’s a new invention for breathing under water put this on your head & jump in”
Sometimes I am so ashamed of my fellow mankind.
Today, The Guardian reports that Ahmed’s father has filed a defamation lawsuit against eight conservative media figures and organizations, including Glenn Beck, media network, the Blaze; Fox Television Stations; and Beth Van Duyne, mayor of Irving.
The suit seeks damages if retractions and corrections are not forthcoming. It claims: “The public has been misled into believing that the Mohameds are terrorists who plotted to have the Irving police wrongfully arrest a teenage boy for bringing an alarm clock to school. These broadcasts irresponsibly fan the flames of fear and anger towards Muslims and immigrants. Each of these Defendants should be required to retract their falsehoods and broadcast the truth”.
I will not comment on the lawsuit, other than to say that I agree their statements and accusations were unfair and should be retracted … should never have been uttered … and that young Ahmed should receive an apology … a public apology. But I will address the mentality that brought us to this point, the Islamophobia. This is what comes from politicians and others shouting from the rooftops that all Muslims are bad (they are not), that Islam is a violent religion full of hate (it is not), and that we must ban all Muslims from our country, deport those already here, and always “be afraid … be very afraid”. This is what comes from millions of people jumping on that bandwagon and blindly supporting those fear-mongering politicians. This is what happens … a 14-year-old boy is hurt, an obviously intelligent, inquisitive boy who dreams of a future: “I just want to invent. I want to help the world a lot, and it would be amazing to see my creations in action.” Think about it.