More details on Ahmed Mohamed’s story

In my haste to get out the door for an appointment, I left out some of the juicier details of the story of that 14 year old kid in Texas who got hauled in by the cops for building a clock, mostly because his name is “Ahmed Mohamed” and not “Joe White American.” For one thing, that NYT story I linked didn’t capture the full absurdity of Mohamed’s (who’s not being charged with a crime, obviously, since he didn’t commit one) conversation with the police:

They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”

Ahmed felt suddenly conscious of his brown skin and his name — one of the most common in the Muslim religion. But the police kept him busy with questions.

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

“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.’”

So the cops then started badgering Mohamed (who, let’s remember, is 14 years old) for “the whole story,” despite the fact that he’d already given them the whole story: it was a goddamn homemade clock. But obviously the kid was lying, because according to a couple of cops, his clock looked like “a movie bomb.” There’s some technical terminology right there. If you’ve ever had somebody repeatedly insist that you were lying when you knew you weren’t, you know how aggravating and/or frustrating that can be, and that’s when your accuser isn’t in law enforcement.

The part I bolded above is interesting, because it turns out that Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, became a minor celebrity in Irving a few years ago when he participated in a “trial” of the Qurʾan put on by Qurʾan-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones, and he’s also known for periodically going back home to Sudan to run for president. Now, you take that, combined with Irving TX’s already demonstrated (via TimF at Balloon Juice)…oh, let’s call it a lack of hospitality toward Muslim residents, and it doesn’t take much of a leap to suggest that Irving police already had their eyes on the Mohamed family before this happened.

This is an absurd story, and I find absurdity funny so I’ve approached it that way, but it’s also a pathetic example of America 2015, where brown kids with homemade electronics are deemed a bigger threat than imbalanced white men with firearms. Amanda Taub at Vox offers another important reason why this whole affair sucks, plain and simple:

Mohamed, rather than finding a community of people who would share “what ifs” and napkin scribbles with him, was punished by his own school for trying to make something new and share it with others. That school suspended him for three days because their bigotry made them afraid of a child’s home science project. And the police arrested him, fingerprinted him, and threatened to charge him with a crime because, to them, his Muslim faith meant that there must be some nefarious “broader explanation” for his cheerful tinkering.

That is appalling. Not just for the obvious reason that this country needs all the innovators and makers and creators it can get — that those people are the ones will bring us the next cool scrolly iPhone display, and new cures for disease, and, I hope, hoverboards. It’s appalling because cutting someone off from the joy of being creative is just a terrible thing to do to a child. It will make that child’s world worse forever.

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