Author: Connor Thomas
This September, a fourteen-year-old, high school freshman from Irving, Texas, named Ahmed Mohamed who also happens to be Muslim-American was arrested and detained during school for bringing according to the accusers what looked like a bomb. In fact, this ‘bomb’ was simply a homemade clock that the student had to put to together the previous night in roughly twenty minutes in order to show it off at school according to Fox News. The problem that this situation brings up or question if you want to look at it that way is one of Muslim-American bigotry and whether or not this situation was mishandled because of the child’s religion. This example is simply on the smaller scale. I also want to analyze the larger scale bigotry that Muslim-Americans face throughout the United States.
While safety at school is nothing to joke about and should be taken very seriously, I believe this situation could have been handled significantly better by faculty and officers who were involved. Had the student been taken to the office, questioned, and then returned to class once everything was sorted out and it was clear that he had not made a bomb or intended to scare anyone I think this whole thing would have been water under the bridge. Instead, according to a report from CNN one of the first things that was said by one of the officers once Ahmed entered the room where the questioning was going to take place was, “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.” These words alone I believe are the turning point from this being a simple safety protocol to now making it an issue involving religious beliefs and prejudices. This whole event could have very well been an issue of prejudices and bigotry from the get go but also very easily could have been diluted to a simple safety protocol as I mentioned just shortly ago without any connection to bigotry. After Ahmed was questioned at school he was then taken to a juvenile detention center where more questioning took place as well as fingerprints and a mug shot. According to the same article from CNN Ahmed was not allowed to call his family and did not have an attorney present while he was being interrogated. The police chief said he was not aware of this. From this article it sounds to me as if Ahmed should have been able to contact someone throughout the process. I do not believe and I am sure many would agree that a fourteen-year-old could not possibly have the capacity to know what to say in order to satisfy the questioners without the help of someone, especially since in his mind he had not done anything wrong.
While analyzing multiple reports including those from the New York Times, CNN, Dallas News, and The Guardian, I came upon the notion that people across the United States have pinned this story with Islamaphobia. Carol Donovan, the chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party said in the New York Times article that, “Ahmed’s arrest is a logical conclusion to Islamophobia in Irving and it’s deplorable.” According to the same article, the president’s spokesman said this story was a case study in prejudice and bigotry during a time when the country is dealing with Islamic terrorism not only at home but in the Middle East as well. From that statement I want to carry this clock incident into the grand scheme of things that the entire nation is dealing with regarding the bigotry that Muslim-Americans face. Unfortunately for Muslims, I’m not sure what can be done to get past this issue. An article by The Atlantic brings up some good points and I think is effective in summarizing what goes through people’s minds at least in the U.S. When people see terroristic events happen specifically those by ISIS, they group ISIS with Muslims across the world; Since ISIS did this, every Muslim must be a terrorist. While you should not have to be convinced that this is not the case it is something that is very real with many Americans. Briefly going back to the case I talked about with the boy who was arrested, NBC News posted an article that included a line summarizing what one of the largest Muslim groups in Texas had to say. The Muslim group did not blame the school itself but instead put the blame on political leaders that have created a “climate of fear” with the language they use when describing Muslims. Examples of this language can be seen in an article by Vox, where TV hosts have declared Muslims “unusually barbaric,” and even movies that have depicted Muslim children as threats and have been nominated for several awards. You may not consciously recognize some of these things but they definitely play a part subconsciously. Another reason that Muslims are caught in a tricky place is because they are in a tough situation when it comes to apologizing for the actions of others in their religion that they are not associated with or share the same beliefs with. Because of the generalization that Americans have put on Muslims as a whole, if those Muslims who are trying to be productive and well-behaved citizens of the U.S. come out and apologize for the actions of those who are acting terroristic and are hurting people, it makes them look as if they are still connected and very much part of the same community with the same beliefs.
While events such as Ahmed Mohamed’s and others across the nation certainly bring up red flags and are the cause of the ideas that the media gives us regarding Muslims, there are bright spots as well. These bright spots may not cure the Islamaphobia that hovers above our nation but each step, regardless of the size, helps those Muslims that are just trying to live normal lives without being in constant fear due to those that may say they are part of the same religion but act in a way that endangers other humans. Evidence of this can be in seen in the majority of the articles I have included in this essay as well as one by Fox59 where examples of people condemning the actions of the school on its Facebook page can be seen as well as a woman who shamed the school and its administrators. Also according to Yahoo, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has asked Americans not to vilify Muslims because of the Paris attacks or the attacks that occurred in San Bernardino, California. It is authority figures like these that will make the most difference in eliminating Islamophobia.
- “14-year-old Texas Boy Arrested after Bringing Homemade Clock to School.” Fox 59. Fox 59, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
- Chiacu, Doina. “Grappling with Attacks, U.S. Leaders Ask Muslims to Fight Back.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 8 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
- Fantz, Ashley, Steve Almasy, and AnneClaire Stapleton. “Teen Ahmed Mohamed Brings Clock to School, Gets Arrested – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 9 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
- Fernandez, Manny, and Christine Hauser. “Handcuffed for Making Clock, Ahmed Mohamed, 14, Wins Time With Obama.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
- Fisher, Max. “It’s Not Just Ahmed Mohamed: Anti-Muslim Bigotry in America Is out of Control.” Vox. Vox, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
- Green, Emma. “The Objectification of Muslims in America.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 22 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
- Hern, Alex. “Texas Schoolboy Handcuffed for Bringing Homemade Clock to School.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
- McClam, Erin. “Ahmed Mohamed, Boy Arrested Over Homemade Clock, Withdraws From Texas School.” NBC News. NBC News, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
- Selk, Avi. “Ahmed Mohamed Swept Up, ‘hoax Bomb’ Charges Swept Away as Irving Teen’s Story Floods Social Media.” com. Dallas News, 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
- “Texas 14-year-old Arrested for Bringing Homemade Clock to School after Teacher Said It Looked like a Bomb.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.