Fourteen-year-old MacArthur High School freshman Ahmed Mohamed, of Irving, Texas, just a few miles from where I live, is reputedly a model student who has been awarded a prize for his robotics studies and who (as far as I can determine) has never been in trouble before. Ahmed made the mistake of trusting his respected teachers to understand when he took a digital clock he had made from various electronic parts to school to show them. They didn’t. They thought it was a “hoax bomb.”
His hobbies are robotics and electronics, and he is good at them. How many 14-yo kids do you know who can create a digital clock out of a few scrap electronics parts? OK, how many 40-yo men or women do you known who could do it? I’d be proud, too. Understandably, so is his father.
Speaking at an afternoon news conference outside the family’s home, Ahmed’s father said he’s proud of his son and wowed by his skills.
“He fixed my phone, my car, my computer,” Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed said. “He is a very smart, brilliant kid.”
Teacher betrayed Ahmed’s trust
His teacher confiscated the clock and contacted the principal, who called police. Ahmed was arrested, searched, and taken away in handcuffs. At the police station, he was interrogated, fingerprinted, and mug-shot before they would even let him call his parents.
The arresting officer later claimed Ahmed had refused to answer their questions or tell them anything that made sense, even though everybody seems to agree he told them repeatedly the device was a clock, and not a bomb.
What’s maybe even harder to understand is that nobody even thought it was a bomb. They thought it was a pretend bomb. A “hoax bomb.” There were no lockdowns or evacuations, and Ahmed was released to his parents several hours later.
Pamela Geller chimes in
The odious and loathsome Pamela Geller, who habitually and intentionally does her best to stir up trouble between Muslims and non-Muslims, has predictably chimed in. She claims this whole thing was a “setup” to prepare for a big lawsuit, since the family has now retained a lawyer. How stupid can she be? I’d retain a lawyer, too. Then I’d sue the pants off of them.
She accused Ahmed’s father of being a trouble-maker,when he has apparently done nothing more than speak his opinion. As I am doing now. As all Americans have a right to do. Including Muslim Americans. It’s called freedom of speech, and we all have it!
As if there were a connection, she mentioned the event in Garland, Texas, a few months ago, where two Islamic extremists were killed as they assaulted the hall with murderous intent. There is no reported evidence that either Ahmed or his father is an extremist, or that they have any violent or dangerous tendencies. She also neglected to mention that she herself had organized that event specifically for the purpose of badgering Muslims. It was a Mohammed cartoon-drawing contest, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France. And wasn’t it held next door to a mosque? I think so. Talk about asking for trouble!
So does that justify attempted murder? Of course not. And the local Muslims gave her no trouble. The terrorists came in from out-of-state. They were clearly responsible for their own deaths at the hands of a local policeman.
Pamela Geller was within her legal rights to deliberately antagonize the local Muslims, but having a right doesn’t make it right. It makes her a bigot and a leader of bigots.
Governor Abbott chimes in
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said later that police were mistaken to arrest Ahmed. He added,
The last thing we want to do is put handcuffs on a kid unjustifiably. Just call this a tragic situation. It looks like the commitment to law enforcement may have gone too far and didn’t balance all the facts.
I agree completely, but I haven’t heard of any apologies from the guilty yet.
Obama and Clinton chime in
President Obama appropriately expressed his support for Ahmed and invited him to bring his clock to the White House. This is a wonderful gesture!
Hillary Clinton also tweeted her support, but very few other politicians seemed to have the nerve.
Zero Tolerance rears its evil and destructve head
It’s easy to see this as pure racism, but Robby Soave at Reason.com points out we’d be wrong. It’s probably true that racism was involved, but there’s also another reason for the actions taken by the government officials (teacher, principal, and cops). It’s called Zero Tolerance, and its a danger to kids of all races and religions, both genders and all grades, rich or poor, smart or mentally challenged, or whatever.
Zero tolerance means if a student even appears to do something against a rule, he or she can be punished for it. Guns are forbidden, obviously; but why does a kid get grilled for five hours and then suspended pending psychological evaluation just because he’s holding a pencil and the other kid behind him says he’s “making gun motions” with it? Don’t believe me? Ask this 13-yo Vermont student.
And then there’s 16-yo Alex Stone, a South Carolina student, who just wrote a story and said he had shot a dinosaur with a gun. A DINOSAUR! It was obviously fiction!
His assignment was to write a few paragraphs about himself, as if it were a Facebook status. He decided to fictionalize. “I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur, and, then, in the next status I said I bought the gun to take care of the business,” Stone said. Police were called and he also was arrested.
Even zero tolerance disproportionately affects students of color, so it isn’t an alternative to racism; it’s an add-on. It’s an evil, unfair thing designed to relieve teachers and administrators from having to think at the expense of their students; and it’s a danger to all American public school students, just as racism is for some. They must both be abolished.
But back to Ahmed’s case
At a joint press conference with Irving ISD, Chief Larry Boyd said the device — confiscated by an English teacher despite the teen’s insistence that it was a clock — was “certainly suspicious in nature.”
He repeatedly explained that he had made a digital clock, whose alarm just happened to ring at an inopportune time; but the cop thought he wasn’t giving them “reasonable” answers. What was he supposed to say?
School officers questioned Ahmed about the device and why Ahmed had brought it to school. Boyd said Ahmed was then handcuffed “for his safety and for the safety of the officers” and taken to a juvenile detention center. He was later released to his parents, Boyd said.
“The follow-up investigation revealed the device apparently was a homemade experiment, and there’s no evidence to support the perception he intended to create alarm,” Boyd said, describing the incident as a “naive accident.”
Asked if the teen’s religious beliefs factored into his arrest, Boyd said the reaction “would have been the same” under any circumstances.
Maybe, but zero tolerance is no better than bigotry. It must be stopped, too.