A 14-year-old Muslim boy who loves to invent things was handcuffed and arrested after bringing a homemade clock to his Texas high school.
The arrest prompted speculations of Islamophobia, but police say they won’t charge him with creating a “hoax bomb.”
Ahmed Mohamed, a ninth grader from Irving, Texas, was eager to impress his teachers with his newest creation – a clock which he invented in just 20 minutes, consisting of a circuit board and a power supply wired to a digital display.
The clock and its wirings were all strapped inside a case.
But when he showed his engineering teacher the clock, he didn’t receive the response he was hoping for.
“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said, as quoted by the Dallas Morning News. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”
Ahmed took his advice, keeping the invention in his bag for the rest of the day. But when the clock’s alarm went off during English class, the teacher complained.
When the 14-year-old showed his teacher the source of the beeping, she said: “It looks like a bomb.” Ahmed responded by saying it didn’t look like a bomb to him.
I expect they will have more to say tomorrow, but Ahmed's sister asked me to share this photo. A NASA shirt! pic.twitter.com/nR4gt992gB
— Anil Dash (@anildash) September 16, 2015
Later on, while Ahmed was in his sixth period class, he was pulled out by the principal and a police officer. He was led to a room where four other officers waited. One of those officers, according to Ahmed, said: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”
He was then questioned by police, and threatened with expulsion by the principal if he didn’t make a written statement.
“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.
“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”
“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”
The ninth grader was then taken to a juvenile detention center, where he was fingerprinted and had mugshots taken. He was, however, able to meet his parents soon after, and was spared a night in a cell.
He was suspended from school for three days.
Police initially said Ahmed could face charges of making a “hoax bomb,” even though he never told anyone it was a bomb at all.
— Jennifer Lindgren (@JLindgrenCBS11) September 16, 2015
Even police spokesman James McLellan has admitted there is no evidence that the ninth grader ever pretended the clock was an explosive device.
“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”
— Sons & Brothers (@sonsandbros) September 16, 2015
He added that “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?”
This isn’t the first time that Irving has been in the spotlight for alleged anti-Islamic discrimination.
This summer, Mayor Beth Van Duyne made headlines for her anti-Islamic rhetoric, expressing concern that a local Muslim group, which had set up a Sharia court of law, was trying to usurp American legislation.
The arrest, along with Van Duyne’s actions, has attracted the attention of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” said Alia Salem, who directs the Council’s North Texas chapter.
“We’re still investigating,” she said, “but it seems pretty egregious.”
The ninth grader’s father, Sudan-born Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, said that “because his name is Mohamed and because of September 11, I think my son got mistreated.”
Police will not charge the teen for creating a “hoax bomb,” they announced Wednesday morning, adding that the case against Ahmed has been closed.
— Ken Kalthoff (@KenKalthoffNBC5) September 16, 2015
Regardless, he has vowed to never bring another invention to school.