#IStandWithAhmed Shows the Best in Us out of a Situation that Represents the Worst in Us

I know this is not Jeremy Lin-related, but I’ve been rather obsessed about the viral story about a Muslim boy, Ahmed Mohamed, who got arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, so I just thought I’d share my thoughts. I think I’m obsessed with this story in a similar way I was obsessed with Linsanity. It’s about someone who became an overnight hero from a situation in which inexplicit racial profiling was involved.

The outpouring of support Ahmed has received from everyone around the world is heartwarming and shows the best in us (also feels a lot like the outpouring of support that Jeremy Lin got overnight during Linsanity). The hashtag #IStandWIthAhmed, which was started by some college student in Texas (not related to Ahmed), has been trending on Twitter for three straight days now. Ahmed has gotten invitations from Obama to Mark Zuckerberg. He’s gotten internship offers from places like Twitter and invitations to NASA as well as MIT. A bitcoin tycoon has even offered to pay for Ahmed to go to a prestigious boarding school, which would cost a total of $250K. Some people may say that this kid is getting way more than he deserves, but I’m glad all of this is being offered to him, because it helps to offset the trauma of what he went through. I mean, can you imagine the scar that would have resulted if he hadn’t gotten the outpouring of support that he has been getting? So, good for humanity that we came out and showed this young boy that the world is not filled with mindless, ignorant, bigoted (knowingly or not) people.

I’ve seen a lot of inaccurate reports about this story, so let me give you what I think is the most accurate report of what happened from all the reports I’ve read on this story (and I have read a lot). From what I understand, Ahmed is just starting his first day of school as a freshman at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas. He wanted to impress his teachers, in particular, his engineering teacher, by bringing in a clock he made from scratched. He had already showed it to his engineering teacher who complimented him on it, but told him not to show it to anyone else, because others may mistaken it for a bomb, since his clock was housed in a metal case that looks like a brief case (I’ll get to this issue later). Anyway, he was sitting in English class when an alarm on the clock went off. So his English teacher asked him to show her the clock and when he did, she freaked out and called the principal who then called the police and this poor kid ended up getting arrested and interrogated for over an hour by five cops! Five cops, just to interrogate one 14-year old boy. By the way, he was also led out in handcuffs, for his protection and that of the police, of course. Right? As if the cops can’t handle a skinny 14-year old kid, wearing a NASA T-Shirt, they had to lead him out in handcuffs. I think that was either about the mindless execution of idiotic policies or it was about bullying and humiliating a Muslim kid in a town where the Mayor, Beth Van Duyne, has a history of bigotry towards the Muslim community.

For those who question why this kid would bring in a homemade clock to school in a case. My response would be, how else would you house a combination of circuit boards and wires, etc.? Would you just simply let it get tossed around in a backpack and get damaged in the process? There’s a reason why bombs are stored in suit cases. It’s the best way of keeping all the parts together and carrying it around. But just because bombs are stored that way, that doesn’t mean that everything that is stored that way MUST be a bomb or MUST be made to look like a bomb. A lot of things that have moving parts need some sort of encasing and a metal case makes the most sense. So people who think he’s trying to make this clock look suspicious I think are just looking at the surface of the issue and letting their binge-watching of the show “24” influence them too much. Housing a homemade clock in a metal case is the simplest solution for stability, durability and portability. If I were being cynical, then I would say that this was his father’s (there’s no way this kid is capable of thinking in this way) mastermind plan to highlight the bigotry that is becoming an escalating problem, especially in the city of Irving, Texas. But I think that’s pretty far-fetched, because his father would have had to have the foresight to see that his son would become an overnight sensation. There’s no way he could have had that foresight. And, without that foresight, why would he put his son through what he knew could be a very traumatic experience–especially if he’s well aware of the bigotry in his hometown? I know no one thinks this, but since I try to see a situation from all angles, I thought I’d bring it up in order to discount this notion in case anyone may have thought of this “entrapment” hypothesis.

Now, let’s get to how disturbing this whole situation is. What I don’t get, and I wish someone would ask Ahmed this, is was the engineering teacher at all involved during this entire process? When the English teacher freaked out, did Ahmed tell her to talk to the Engineering teacher and he’ll tell her that it’s not a bomb? If so, and the English teacher didn’t take Ahmed up on this, then that’s really disturbing. If not, I can sort of understand it, because Ahmed is, after-all, a 14-year old boy and may have been too startled by his English teacher’s reaction to even think straight. But Ahmed’s Engineering teacher did warn him not to show other teachers, because they may think that it looks like a bomb. So Ahmed couldn’t have been that surprised by his English teacher’s reaction. Out of all the reports and interviews I’ve seen, no one has actually asked Ahmed about whether or not his Engineering teacher was involved in this whole process. That’s just poor journalism. They ask him all these silly and obvious questions, but fail to really dig into what really happened. On top of this, a lot of reports fail to even understand that it was his English teacher, not his Engineering teacher who freaked out about the homemade clock. And they fail to emphasize that Ahmed didn’t intend to show it to his English teacher, he was told to show the homemade clock to his English teacher because an alarm on it went off in class. It’s crazy how bad journalism is getting in America. Journalists are too eager to get the story out that they don’t concern themselves over accuracy. Anyway, that’s a whole other topic.

Okay, here’s where we get to the disturbing parts of this whole situation. Listen, I get how an English teacher could freak out at the sight of wires and circuit boards. It probably reminded her of all the classes and projects that she failed at in class when she was in school. It’s still pretty idiotic that she can’t tell a clock from bomb, but whatever. That’s fine. I get it. It’s fine that she over-reacted initially at the site of wires and circuit boards housed in a metal case. She probably binge-watched too many “24” shows on Netflix or something the night before. But you’d think that after the initial over-reaction, the matter of it not being a bomb or the matter of Ahmed not even trying to make it like a bomb (what cops call a “hoax bomb”) would have been cleared up rather quickly just by talking to the kid or with common sense. And, again, I bring up the Engineering teacher who had already looked at the homemade clock. Here’s where I think the insanity of zero tolerance policies in schools and racial profiling came into play.

If the English teacher had half a brain and a little common sense, the whole matter would have been resolved right then and there. But due to her mindlessly following the insane zero tolerance policies, as well as her being brainwashed by her bigoted mayor, she immediately took the homemade clock from the kid and reported it to the principal, without trying to really listen to the kid, it seems. I sincerely don’t think this situation would have escalated as quickly and dramatically as it did if this kid wasn’t named “Ahmed Mohamed”. I try to have an open-mind about these things. But it’s hard to believe that some white kid would have gotten the exact same treatment that Ahmed Mohamed received in the same situation. Sure, the zero-tolerance policy may have still resulted in the teacher communicating the situation to the principal and the principal may have had to report it to the police. I’m not intimately familiar with the zero tolerance policy in this area, so I don’t know what these people were legally obligated to do. So can’t really comment on that. But for sure, this kid would NOT have been interrogated for over an hour by cops who didn’t even let him call his parents (because he was under interrogation), if he was white. (By the way, I’m pretty sure what the cops did, by interrogating a minor without his parents present is illegal). One of the cops even said, “that’s who I thought it was” upon seeing Ahmed, even though he’s never seen Ahmed before in his life and doesn’t know Ahmed! The cops basically treated Ahmed as if he’s a terrorist, simply because of his name. This is why they refused to let him call his parents, which is clearly a right a child has in this situation. Because of his name, they spent over an hour trying to get him to sign a statement. The principal even threatened him with expulsion if he didn’t sign a statement. All this, without his parents present (Ahmed did not see his parents until he was released from a juvenile detention center). Fortunately, Ahmed is smart enough to know his rights and refused to sign, which takes a great deal of courage, sitting in a room with five cops and his principal essentially bullying him. Racial profiling and bigotry was very much in play in this situation. I find it very hard to believe that the cops would have given someone named “John Smith” the EXACT same treatment.

Sure, the English teacher may have had the same over-reaction initially, even if the homemade clock came out of “John Smith’s” backpack, but I think the matter would have been settled pretty quickly and the English teacher wouldn’t have been as fearful. It was her subconscious bigotry that caused her to escalate the situation. This fear of “those who look like terrorists” (often referred to as Islamophobia) is, unfortunately, something that has been escalating in this country since 9/11 and has been the number one recruiting tool for these very terrorists that these people are so fearful of. Ironic, isn’t it?

This whole excuse about how “it looks like a bomb” that the English teacher, the principal, the school district, the mayor and the police gave as justification for their over-reaction is completely false when you examine their actions. If the English teacher truly thought it was a bomb, wouldn’t she have evacuated the classroom and, similarly, wouldn’t the principal have evacuated the school? They did no such thing, because they KNEW it wasn’t a bomb. If the cops thought it was a bomb, why didn’t they call in a bomb squad, instead, they just put it in their car and drove away with it.

So their actions clearly showed that they didn’t think it was a serious threat of any kind. So if they didn’t think it was a serious threat, then why did they put this boy through this trauma? Because they thought he was trying to make a “hoax bomb”? And this is where the lunacy comes into play, likely due to bigotry (knowingly or not). If Ahmed had planted the homemade clock somewhere in the school to make it look like a bomb, then they have a case for a “hoax bomb”. But the homemade clock was in Ahmed’s possession in his backpack the entire time. He had no intention of showing it to anyone but to his Engineering teacher, who he had already shown it to (so it wasn’t like he was hiding it in his backpack so that he could plant it later in the day and terrorize the school). His English teacher forced him to show it to her, because an alarm went off. So the question is, is the homemade clock simply considered a potential “hoax bomb” because it was in the possession of someone named “Ahmed Mohamed”? And was Ahmed’s treatment by his English teacher, his principal and the Police a form of Muslim-bullying and humiliation? Why did the principal not call his parents? Why did the cops not allow Ahmed to call his parents? Why was he lead away in handcuffs, like a criminal, even though they had no evidence he was one? Unfortunately, all of the actors involved in this whole situation have either been brainwashed by the bigotry against Muslims that’s been escalating in this country or they are the very bigots themselves. They can hide behind bogus procedures, policies, and what not, but I don’t think any of them would have acted in the EXACT same manner if the kid wasn’t named “Ahmed Mohamed”. Because of his name, these people treated him as if he’s a terrorist. They let their biases (subconscious or otherwise) blind their judgments (sound familiar Jeremy Lin fans?).

Even after it is clear that Ahmed did nothing wrong, we get no apologies from the cops or the school. What’s even more infuriating is that the school sent out a self-congratulatory letter to all parents about their mis-handling of the situation and basically doubled-downed on their mistake. The tone-deafness of this letter represents everything wrong in how institutions communicate. Completely devoid of any humanity and intended only to cover their legal asses. If I was Ahmed’s parents, I’d be infuriated by this letter. Instead of an apology, I get this?! Are you fucking kidding me?! Of course, it’s just another institution trying to cover their ass.

Here is an institution that is supposed to exist to teach our children and this is how they behave? No wonder the kids in America had the worst SAT scores in like ever this past year and are way behind in STEM (Science, Technology, English, and Math). Our school system is failing our children! I mean, just think about what this one school did to a bright, motivated kid, the very type of kid that should be praised, all in the name of insane zero tolerance policy, as well as bigotry! The stupidest justification I’ve heard from this school district for their treatment of Ahmed is that he shouldn’t have brought in the homemade clock because it wasn’t a school assignment. Just let that sink in for a moment. I mean, isn’t that the very thing that schools are supposed to encourage, for students to explore their own interests and not just complete assignments like mindless robots? The truth is, most schools (from an institutional standpoint) don’t give a shit about our kids. They just want to execute their policies and be seen as teaching our kids by teaching our kids to get good test scores that the schools are measured on so they can  get more funding, etc. Schools actually stifle creativity and innovation. This just happens to be an extreme example of this, but this happens inexplicitly on a daily basis. But that’s a whole other topic.

Anyway, If this kid didn’t get the outpouring of support that he has been getting, he’d be severely scarred for life. This experience would teach this kid to hate his environment (i.e, this country). It would teach him that there is only hate in this world and it could close him off to the world and possibly even turn him into a terrorist. The “war on terrorism” is misguided, because it encourages bigotry and fear-mongering, which is exactly what the terrorists want. This incident of a Muslim kid who got arrested for building a homemade clock in the U.S. is EXACTLY the type of thing that terrorist networks will use to recruit young men to become terrorists. It’s no coincidence that this happened in a town run by a mayor who encourages this fear-mongering. Unfortunately, people like this mayor are too dumb to really understand all the ramifications of their actions. So they commit these mindless acts that basically give more ammo to the terrorists.

About JLintel

NOTE: On June 11, 2016 I switched the comments section to Disqus's platform. As a result, all comments from previous platform have disappeared from all articles.
  • old & in the way

    Dear JLintel:

    I think this case of Ahmed Mohamed is a vivid and classic example of anti-muslim discrimination. I am very confident that if this young man were a European-American named John Smith this situation would have been handled completely differently by everyone involved. It seems to me that all of the school officials and police officials acted inappropriately and most probably broke laws in the process. Sandra Bland, a Black Lives Matter activist, was the victim of false arrest in a small Texas city just this past July and died while in police custody. It was ruled a “suicide” but it seemed clear to her friends and relatives that she did not kill herself and it also seems clear to me. There is extreme discrimination in many locations in the southern United States as well as everywhere else. Texas does seem to have a higher rate of these kinds of civil rights police abuses and crimes but they happen everywhere in this country. This kind of bias and stereotyping with which Ahmed Mohamed was victimized is very similar to what Jeremy Lin has experienced in both his personal and professional life so I see the connection and I understand why you were so drawn to this case and his story. I, too, am glad that the public has generally come to his defense and supported the legitimacy of the fact that he was grossly mistreated. So I think your article is very pertinent to this blog and Jeremy Lin’s story and experiences and I thank you for it.

    • Thank you, so much for this very beautifully-articulated comment. I’m glad that you see the connection with JLin.

  • Forthelin

    Good perceptive response, Old. I did not initially see the similarity, but started to get the connection to Jlin by the end of the article. People’s perceptions of others will not change overnight. I have my own prejudices about Texas and Texans, which are reinforced by these types of actions.

  • MrPingPong

    Since I do not have the writing skills of our Philosopher and of Old and In, I will try to keep it short here.

    Bigotry against non white, bigotry against non Christian, bigotry against non homosexual, bigotry against (fill in the blanks)… It’s rather upsetting and alarming. Still I remain optimistic and believe that the majority of humans are better than this.

    Switching back to Lin, in spite of all the mistreatments, he seems to hold no grudge on anybody nor any organization. There is not a sign of hate in his heart. Amazing! I hope Ahmed will overcome this traumatic experience, hold no grudge, move forward and continue to learn and tinker to become one the best engineers/scientists that America has to offer.

    Letzzz Buzzz Ahmed! 🙂

    Have a great weekend everyone, wherever you are on this WEB!

    🙂

  • MrPingPong

    Yesterday, I met a 64 year-old black retiree at a martial art class. Somehow, as we talked about physical contact and martial art injuries, this man brought up football injuries, and he seemed to know a lot about football. He claimed to be an uncle of Randy Moss, a rather accomplished retired NFL wide receiver, in case you are not familiar with the NFL.

    He told a few stories about his nephew and said that his nephew tried to help the black youth a lot. And then he started lashing out on Michael Jordan. Basically he said MJ did nothing to help the black youth and the black community in general and had no respect for MJ. He said he worked as a security guard for some golf course in West Virginia at one point in time, and purposely demanded MJ to show some ID before allowing MJ in when MJ came for some kind of celebrity tournament.

    Curious about MJ’s charity work, I google for “Michael Jordan charity” and found a few articles, in particular this one at ESPN:

    http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/12034228/michael-jordan-contribution-black-issues-greater-perceived

    Be sure to read the comments to see for yourself how the readers are divided over MJ.

    Just telling y’all this story simply because MJ is Lin’s boss. 😉