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Don’t be so quick to judge Ahmed Mohamed case

It’s been six weeks since the news of Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest initially made the internet rounds, and my Facebook feed still won’t let me hear the end of it.

As the story goes, 14-year-old Mohamed brought a homemade digital clock to school in Irving, Texas and suspicion on the part of his teachers brought on by the clock’s apparent similarity to a bomb led to his eventual arrest. This all sounds terribly cruel and unjust — social justice warriors all over the Internet have taken up arms in response, accusing virtually everyone involved of racism towards Muslims.

Of course, the story that gets all the attention is rarely the only perspective. Another less popular point of view comes from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who personally talked with Mohamed and a number of individuals close to the incident. On Real Time with Bill Maher, Cuban said that the fourth teacher Mohamed showed the clock to was the first to raise concerns. Cuban claimed Mohamed chose not “engage with the teacher” and that Mohamed “could have said (his clock was) not a bomb” when, according to Cuban, Mohamed did not. The police were then called.

Cuban’s account of events contrasts with Mohamed’s, who said he insisted to the worried teacher that the clock wasn’t a bomb, to which the teacher responded, according to Mohamed, “it looks like a bomb.” Mohamed claimed that despite his best efforts at diffusing the situation, the day ended with his arrest and, as he put it, “interrogation,” during which he was denied a phone call to his father.

The Irving teachers and principal have been on the receiving end of an astounding amount of criticism. On Real Time with Bill Maher, former governor of New York George Pataki defended the teachers and described a “zero-tolerance policy in school for things that are suspicious.” Given such a policy, it’s hard to argue that the teacher was wrong to raise concerns about something they viewed as suspicious since most people’s experience with bombs is limited to Die Hard and Rush Hour films. But consider the outcome if, as Maher points out, the clock had in fact been a real bomb — the teacher’s actions could have saved hundreds of children’s lives, and instead of being called racists, they would have been praised as heroes.

Although the school staff can reasonably be acquitted of the racism charge, the story isn’t necessarily the same for the police who made the arrest. The fact that they arrested Mohammed under suspicion of a “hoax bomb” while inadequately heeding the teachers to whom Mohamed showed the clock makes it entirely possible that the arrest was made on the basis of discrimination. Nonetheless, most Internet commenters, in the excitement of their Ahmed crusade, fail to distinguish between the officers and the teachers and brand the whole situation and everyone involved as racist.

At the end of all this, of course, the only big winner is Mohamed himself, who has received everything ranging from gadgets courtesy of Google to a visit to the White House. He was invited to visit the Google Science Fair and talk with astronauts who work on the International Space Station. Employees at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories have offered to give him the full tour. Most recently, he and his family moved to Qatar, where he had a full scholarship waiting for him courtesy of the Qatar Foundation — one of several that he was offered.

Mohamed was positively spoiled and the reason for his spoiling went past encouraging scientific interest. People and organizations used — and continue to use — the Ahmed bandwagon as everything from advertising space to political leverage. Mohamed has been made into a symbol: not one that promotes science and innovation, but one that serves the whims of presumptuous SJWs and the money-makers who cater to them. He has become a feel-good tactic for do-gooders who sit at their computers convincing themselves that ranting about evil racist teachers is somehow making the world a better place. The lack of perspective here is astounding and offensive, and I can think of no better way to finish than to quote Bill Maher on the subject:

“There’s a Saudi who was arrested his name is Ali Mohamed Al Nimr. (…) He was arrested for being at an anti-government rally a few years ago. Today he lost his final legal appeal to not be crucified. So they’re going to crucify him crucify him and then behead him, in case the crucifixion didn’t work. So if you haven’t used up all your heroism hashtagging for the clock kid, maybe do it for this guy.”

Correction: A Nov. 1 version of this article stated that Mohamed’s teacher “didn’t believe him” when Mohamed told them his invention wasn’t a bomb. According to the Dallas Morning News, Mohamed claimed that the teacher said “it looks like a bomb.” This article has been updated on Nov. 3. 

19 Comments

  1. It’s odd how people insisted that this is just an ordinary, moderate family that wants to fit in with America, yet Ahmed’s father ran for President of Sudan twice, and the family moved to Qatar. Both nations practice Shari’a Law. A family with such an apparent affinity to such nations are not moderates. And a kid who brings a clock that looks like a hoax bomb to school didn’t so by some innocent mistake.

  2. The family’s probably laughing all the way to the bank, so to speak. For probably less than $20 and 15 minutes work, this activist family made a laughing stock out of the American public, got MANY free gifts, got a meeting with the POTUS, and got the son a free education in a nice warm place. In fact, they will be laughing at America for the rest of their days!

  3. Further research has found a number of news articles citing the “Police Report released Tuesday 9/15/15” and mentioning that 3 teachers are listed as complainants, and that they were responding to a HOAX bomb charge, but I don’t think the report was ever made public.

  4. … and this:

    “In a letter last week, the police department asked the state attorney general’s office for permission to withhold all records related to Ahmed’s arrest from reporters. Like the school district, police cite laws that shield records involving children from the public.

    But “even if the release of the responsive records was not prohibited,” police legal adviser Les Moore wrote to the attorney general, the city would seek to withhold them voluntarily under a law that lets them keep dismissed cases secret.

    And in what Moore acknowledged was “an unusual request,” police are trying to withhold the personnel files and names of the officers who questioned and arrested Ahmed, citing threats.

    The school district and city have been inundated with phone calls, emails and social media posts since Ahmed’s story went viral three weeks ago — including disturbing messages like a picture of a sniper rifle captioned: “Time to go pig hunting.”

    “Some of the posts were from groups known to target officers and departments with hacking attacks or assaults on their credit,” Moore wrote to the attorney general.”

    http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20151005-ahmeds-family-never-got-irving-isd-letter-seeking-to-release-arrest-details.ece

  5. I believe the parents are silencing the school, as you say.

    However, I’ve seen reports that the police are seeking the Texas attorney-general’s permission to refuse journalists’ requests to see the police records on the grounds that (1) there’s an impending law suit, (2) the case involves a minor, (3) if police officers and teachers were identified they would be in danger.

    This is the only source I can now find:
    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/09/24/police-report-blocked-muslims-clock-case-lawsuit/

  6. I figured, if there was one I’m sure to have seen it.

    I watched the Irving police chief’s interview on CNN (or some big news outlet) and he did mention that the kid was arrested for allegations of bringing to school a hoax bomb.

  7. Well, I think anyone who knows all the facts knows it was a fake bomb. Putting the guts of an old alarm clock in a metal case serves no other purpose. It just makes both items useless. To call it a “home-made clock” or a “science project” are both laughable.

    Then there’s the boy’s supposed penchant for troublemaking and class disruption, (sometimes utilizing electronic devices with their cases removed). You get a pretty good idea that he boy knew exactly what the device looked like. He is a ‘genius’ after all…
    You can add in his father’s pro-Islam activism and previous publicity stunts, but then you just get too many factors going. Let’s just stick to – it looked like a bomb (a “movie bomb) and Ahmed knew full well what it looked like –

  8. Sorry to give the impression that I’ve seen the “police report”. I have not. But I read somewhere, I think in the press release issued by the police (I can’t find that source now) that they responded to the school because of an alleged “hoax bomb” and that three teachers were listed as the complainants. Again, can’t seem to find the source right now, but it was very reliable, not some crackpot website.

  9. >>>(the arrest report lists 3 teacher as the complainants)

    You’ve seen an arrest report? where? because I thought that his father needed to give written permission to the school and the police department to release the records related to this incident, and that he hasn’t (nor will he before they move).

    Not allowing the school or police to share their side of the story really makes me assume that their respective investigation files would further reveal this incident to be a big publicity stunt by the father and CAIR

  10. If you dig deeper in the story, the kid liked stirring things up other times in the past. This garbage about “islamaphobia” which isn’t even a real word, is complete nonsense! How do you know a person’s religion by what they look like on the outside when they are dressed like everyone else? He had no religious garb on him. The cops didn’t question him because he looks muslim. They questioned him because he deliberately caused a public nuisance, which by the way is also an offense. They gave him many chances to be upfront but on purpose, he skirted around the issue and the police weren’t able to find out his motive behind bringing in a reassembled store clock which was made to look like a bomb. What further caused this incident to become a news story is the sheer amount of 100% percent complete idiots immediately hashtagging it and posting it to Twiiter (including the embarrassment of a president there) who weren’t there and didn’t even know what really happened to cause the police to handle it the way they did . Then the idiots in the media chose to portray the story in a completely biased and one-sided way. As usual, without stopping to think, a bunch of idiots jump on the same stupid bandwagon of protecting a trouble-marker and rewarding him with more electronics/gadgets. Unbelievable that people would be so stupid to reward bad behaviour. And how does this little brat repay you? By growing up to do something useful and pay taxes to the country that coddled him? Nope! It leaves the country. So much for being grateful to a system that supported his immature trouble making pursuits.

  11. “We all know it was a fake bomb”
    I tend to agree with you that it was a hoax bomb, but I don’t think that ‘we all know it’.
    I think there is still widespread uncritical acceptance of the ‘Ahmed as victim’ narrative despite the apparent holes in the story.

  12. I don’t think that the reaction of the school or the police fits in that category of “extreme zero tolerance polices”. At first, I assumed it did, when I thought that Ahmed had built a “home-made clock”.

    I have since come to realize that Ahmed did, indeed built a device specifically to resemble a bomb and brought it to school. What I did not know before, but do now is that there is a specific Texas State Law which prohibits doing exactly what Ahmed did. You have to wonder when that law was thought up and why, but it’s on the books. Making a hoax bomb is a crime.

    It seems to me the teachers at McArthur High school showed a great deal of patience with Ahmed. When his first teacher told him not to show it to anyone because it looked like a bomb, he expected Ahmed to follow that instruction. In retrospect he should have confiscated it then and there but it is quite possible he was afraid of being labeled an “ilsamaphobe”. I think the patience shown with Ahmed who carried the device around school ALL DAY was probably due to fears of being accused of “ilsamaphobia”, but I think the school had eventually had enough. It was clearly the Principal’s decision to call police because he determined that a crime had been committed.

    Many miss-statements were made by police and IISD administrators who didn’t really understand what had happened and thought that Ahmed had really initiated a “bomb scare”. Certain statements were made about “looking out for the safety of our students” etc. etc. which really wasn’t the case. Ahmed was arrested because he violated a specific law prohibiting making fake bombs and bringing them to public places. We all know it was a fake bomb; not a very sophisticated one, but a fake bomb nonetheless.

  13. “At this point, who cares if it’s a hoax? The fact that this issue resonated with so
    many people shows that it’s an issue that had to be brought up.”

    It’s important to decide if it’s a hoax, because that determines what ‘this issue’ really
    is.

    When people first read the story, and saw the photo of Ahmed in handcuffs, the universal
    reaction was: ‘Here’s this 14-year-old science geek. He builds a clock and
    takes it to school to impress his teachers, to show them what he can do. Is he
    congratulated and encouraged? No! Because he is a Muslim, islamophobic teachers
    and police deny his curiosity and his thirst for knowledge and treat him as a
    potential terrorist. The issue is America’s islamophobia.”

    From then on, the ‘islamophobic’ label is stuck on anyone who suggests that there
    are some inconsistencies in this narrative – inconsistencies that might suggest
    that Ahmed’s clock was in fact a hoax or that Ahmed might not be an innocent,
    victimized seeker-after-knowledge.

    Isn’t it possible that it was in fact a hoax, or that the police / school reaction was
    the result of an extreme zero-tolerance policy, or that police and teachers weren’t properly trained to deal with this kind of situation? If that’s the case, then those issues do need to be addressed. But if we just make the simple, easy assumption that all Texas police and teachers are ignorant racists, aren’t we in danger of ignoring the real issues?

    Incidentally, we’d be in a better position to answer these questions if Ahmed’s parents
    waived their right to privacy and authorized the school to give us their account
    of what happened.

  14. You can see that Avi Selk was the first to call the device a “homemade clock” but he also refers to it as “a circuit stuffed pencil case” (a much more accurate description). But still nowhere is it ever stated that anyone mistook the device for a bomb (that little bit of misinformation was added to the story later) only that the police were called.

    Original story by Avi Selk:

    IRVING — Ahmed Mohamed — who makes his own radios and repairs his own go-kart — hoped to impress his teachers when he brought a homemade clock to MacArthur High on Monday.

    Instead, the school phoned police about Ahmed’s circuit-stuffed pencil case.

  15. At this point, who cares if it’s a hoax? The fact that this issue resonated with so many people shows that it’s an issue that had to be brought up. Debating what a 14 year old kid did or did not say isn’t helping anything.

    Look at it this way: if an Irish kid was kicked out because teachers thought he had alcohol in his water bottle, it might make the news but people as a whole wouldn’t care. A muslim kid’s clock getting mistaken for a bomb? That resonates with all the muslims that have been called terrorists since (and before) 9/11, and all the people that defend them.

    “serves the whims of presumptuous SJWs and the money-makers who cater to them”

    Not the essjaydubbelyus! Where does the idea that money-makers cater to SJWs come from? Why would someone in power cater to a group that cannot benefit them in any way? Hell, what’s wrong with trying to make the world a more equal place? I’m not really sure where you’re going with this sentence.

    I do agree that we should be condemning the crucifixion of the Saudi man, but the clock story naturally resonates with Americans because, you know, it happened in America. I also disagree that we can only focus on one issue at a time. I’ve seen much more about the crucifixion on my social media than the clock, so it depends entirely on your social circle.

    The lack of perspective in this article is astounding and offensive.

  16. Here’s the original story:
    http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/northwest-dallas-county/headlines/20150915-irving-ninth-grader-arrested-after-taking-homemade-clock-to-school.ece

    As pro-Ahmed as it is, it conflicts with all of the stories that are supposed to based on it.

    He was never arrested.
    It was never mistaken for a real bomb.
    According to Ahmed, he kept telling them it was a clock. According to the police, he kept telling them it was a clock, instead of answering their questions. A hoax bomb, by statue, is one that looks like a bomb, or is intended to cause alarm. They had to determine intent to see if he was violating the law. He was stonewalling the police.

    At no point have I seen one shred of evidence that discrimination was involved — it’s assumed unless proven otherwise. For that matter, I’ve never seen one outlet issue a retraction for the inaccuracies.

  17. “he insisted to the worried teachers that the clock wasn’t a bomb, but that they didn’t believe him. Mohamed claimed that despite his best efforts at diffusing the situation, the day ended with his arrest ”

    I’d love to see the citation for this assertion!

    According to all accounts that I have seen (Ahmed Mohamed interviews) never ONCE did he have to “convince a teacher” that the device was not a bomb. Not once did any teacher ever even think that the device was a bomb (after some inspection).

    According to Ahmed’s account he showed it to his first period teacher who told him it LOOKS LIKE A BOMB. He did not think that it was a bomb or, even more ridiculously, argue with Ahmed over whether or not it was a bomb. He simply told him it looked like a bomb, and more importantly he warned Ahmed not to show it to anyone else lest they be alarmed by its bomb-like appearance.

    So then according to Ahmed he showed it to his 5th period English teacher (after being warned not to) and his English teacher asked him “is that a bomb” and Ahmed replied “no it’s a clock”. At that point the teacher confiscated the device and notified the principal. Clearly the teacher did not have a debate with Ahmed over whether the device was a bomb or not. And she did not “think it was a bomb”. When she confiscated it, instead of running screaming from the room, she clearly was not afraid that it was a bomb.

    According to Cuban’s account (based on his interviews with those involved) Ahmed also showed it to several other teachers as well. When he was told by the first teacher that it “looks like a bomb” and continued to show it to other teachers, then the boy clearly intended to alarm and was guilty under the Texas Hoax Bomb statute 46.08. So how did the police act improperly again?

    Then you say that “The fact that they arrested Mohammed under suspicion of a “hoax bomb” while inadequately heeding the teachers to whom Mohamed showed the clock”.
    What sort of nonsense is this? Inadequately heeding? Those teachers that he showed it to were the ones who CALLED THE POLICE (the arrest report lists 3 teacher as the complainants) because they knew that the device was a piece of garbage ginned up to LOOK LIKE A BOMB (not that it WAS a bomb). That is called a hoax bomb. The principal called the police on suspicion of a hoax bomb. He has very little discretion under IISD policy. When he suspects a crime has been committed, he must notify the police.

    The police questioned Ahmed on suspicion of a hoax bomb, and when he failed to provide any reasonable explanation for the device (there is none because it WAS a hoax bomb) then he was arrested for a hoax bomb.

    This is some really half-assed reporting! You even continue to call the device a “home-made clock” which has been thoroughly debunked. The device was an off-the-shelf alarm clock reconfigured inside a pencil case, essentially rendering both items useless for any other purpose other than to look like a bomb (i.e. it WAS a hoax bomb).

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