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Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

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Arthur Scott

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September 17, 2015

Don’t take your innovative science
project to school if you are Muslim!

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

A 14-year old Muslim student takes his science project to school. Instead of appreciating his talent the school teachers call police. The teen ager is interrogated for one and a half hour. Taken to juvenile prison, fingerprinted and photographed like a criminal. During this ordeal he was not allowed to contact his parents.

What lesson the Muslim students will get from this episode and what advice I will give to Muslim students who often face bullying at school? Don’t take your innovative science project to school.Ahmed Mohamed2

This is the horrifying story of Ahmed Mohamed of Irving High School in Texas.

Ironically, the mainstream media is now portraying him as hero of the Silicon Valley for his creative skill in making an electronic clock that was considered a bomb by teachers and police.

To borrow Zack Beauchamp of Think Progress, this is textbook racial and religious profiling: Mohamed looked like what the Irving police thought terrorists looked like, so they treated him differently.

Ahmed told NBC Dallas Fort Worth that his family surname repeatedly came up in police questioning. "I really don't think it's fair, because I brought something to school that wasn't a threat to anyone. I didn't do anything wrong. I just showed my teachers something and I end up being arrested later that day," he said.

The CNN reported this graphic account of Ahmed’s arrest of  Monday Sept 14:

    By Thursday, more details of the 14-year-old's arrest in Irving, Texas, came to light. In an interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Ahmed said he was pulled out of class at MacArthur High School by his principal and five police officers and taken to a room where he was questioned for about an hour and a half. He said he asked the adults if he could call his parents. "They told me 'No, you can't call your parents,'" Ahmed said. "'You're in the middle of an interrogation at the moment.' They asked me a couple of times, 'Is it a bomb?' and I answered a couple of times, 'It's a clock.'" "I felt like I was a criminal," the teenager said. "I felt like I was a terrorist. I felt like all the names I was called."

Hayes asked what he meant.

In middle school, Ahmed said, he had been called "bomb maker" and a "terrorist."

    "Just because of my race and my religion," he said, adding that when he walked into the room where he was questioned, an officer reclined in a chair and remarked, "That's who I thought it was." "I took it to mean he was pointing at me for what I am, my race," the freshman explained.

Adding insult to injury, Ahmed suspended for three days from the school. The school defended its cruel action as reported by Max Fisher of Vox Media:

    This arrest, clearly, should never have happened. But one would like to expect at least that the Irving school, … would realize its mistake. That the school would apologize to Mohamed for humiliating and terrorizing him, acknowledge its mistake, and use it as a teaching moment to discuss racism and profiling.That is not what has happened. Instead, even after learning that the clock was just a clock built as an educational project, the school suspended Mohamed for three days and sent out a letter, which acknowledges no mistake whatsoever on the school's part even though by then school officials knew the clock was harmless, is infuriating to read for its tone-deafness.

    It seems to imply that Mohamed was at fault for violating the "Student Code of Conduct."The letter also asks students to "immediately report any suspicious items and / or suspicious behavior," in effect asking students and parents help to perpetuate the school's practice of racist profiling, even after that profiling had been clearly demonstrated as without merit. It is appalling that school officials would still think this way even after their arrest had been exposed as a horrible mistake, but it is especially telling that they would wish to announce this fact to students' parents as well.

Social Media drive

Nobody would have noticed Ahmed Mohamed’s ordeal but thanks to social media his arrest news went viral. His sisters, 18-year-old Eyman and 17-year-old Ayisha, set up a Twitter account for him, @IStandWithAhmed, and watched it balloon to thousands of followers within hours. His sisters also posted his picture in hand cuff.

Thousands of Twitter users praised the boy's initiative and questioned why he was detained including Nasa scientists, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and President Barrack Obama.

"Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great," President Obama wrote on Twitter.

“Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest,” Zuckerberg wrote. “The future belongs to people like Ahmed.”

Josh Earnest, Obama's press secretary, said the case goes to show how stereotypes can cloud the judgment of even the most “good-hearted people.”

“It’s clear that at least some of Ahmed's teachers failed him,” Earnest said. “That’s too bad, but it’s not too late for all of us to use this as a teachable moment and to search our own conscience for biases in whatever form they take.”

The White House also extended the teen an invitation to speak with NASA scientists and astronauts at next month’s Astronomy Night.

Republican Presidential candidates not sympathetic

Not surprisingly, three Republican Presidential candidates - Bobby Jindal, Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Lindsey Graham – were not sympathetic to Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest on hoax bomb suspicion.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lauded Irving school officials and police for erring on the side of caution when Ahmed took his device to MacArthur High School. “I’m glad they’re vigilant,” he told Jake Tapper who was moderating a four-GOP presidential debate at CNN.

 “We’re at war, folks,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, another GOP presidential hopeful. “Young men from the Mideast are different from Kim Davis alluding to the Kentucky county clerk briefly jailed this month for defying court orders to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples citing his religious beliefs. “We’ve got to understand that.”

Former New York Gov. George Pataki didn’t address Ahmed’s situation but said he would have fired Davis, adding that a Muslim county clerk who cited religious beliefs to refuse to exercise her public duty would never have generated such sympathy. [Dallas News - GOP candidates weigh in on Ahmed Mohamed arrest for ‘hoax bomb’]

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne defends school action

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne took to Facebook to defend the actions of the school district and police, saying their daily work helped make Irving “one of the safest cities in the country.”

“I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat,” Van Duyne wrote. “We have all seen terrible and violent acts committed in schools. ... Perhaps some of those could have been prevented and lives could have been spared if people were more vigilant.”

The mayor later amended her post, acknowledging that she would be “very upset” had the same thing happened to her own child.

“It is my sincere desire that Irving ISD students are encouraged to use their creativity, develop innovations and explore their interests in a manner that fosters higher learning,” Van Duyne wrote.

“Hopefully, we can all learn from this week’s events and the student, who has obvious gifts, will not feel at all discouraged from pursuing his talent in electronics and engineering.”

Anti-Muslim bigotry in America is out of control

For Max Fisher, Foreign Editor at, the arrest of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, was completely in line with a problem that has been growing over the past year: Islamophobia, which is the fear-based hatred of Muslims, is out of control in American society.

To understand why a Texas school would arrest a 14-year-old student for bringing in a homemade clock, it helps to understand what came before: the TV news hosts who declare Muslims "unusually barbaric," the politicians who gin up fear of Islam, the blockbuster film that depicts even Muslim children as dangerous threats, and the wave of hatred against Muslims that has culminated several times in violence so severe that what happened to Mohamed, while terrible, appears unsurprising and almost normal within the context of ever-worsening American Islamophobia.

Many Americans might be totally unaware this is happening, even though they are surrounded by Islamophobia: on TV, at airport security, in our pop culture and our politics, and inevitably in our schools. Perhaps, then, Mohamed's arrest will be a wake-up call.

American Islamophobia has grown so severe that, even looking just at the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Mohamed's Dallas suburb, one can see, in broad daylight, the climate of hostility and fear America's 2.6 million (read 7 million) Muslims have been made to live in.

Marcus Wohlsen of wrote: What would happen if kids across the country decided to take their own homemade clocks to school that they made following those instructions? Who knows. Maybe if enough young people make clocks, teachers and police will at least learn what a clock looks like, even on the inside. Or, if that’s too much to ask, maybe they’ll just learn to trust their students when they describe what they’ve made. We get it: technology can be scary: after all, open up any computer or smart phone, and what’s inside? Circuits! Or should we say, a hoax bomb waiting to happen.

The ACLU of Texas, executive director Terri Burke said, "Ahmed Mohamed's avoidable ordeal raises serious concerns about racial profiling and the disciplinary system in Texas schools. Instead of encouraging his curiosity, intellect, and ability, the Irving ISD saw fit to throw handcuffs on a frightened 14 year-old Muslim boy wearing a NASA t-shirt and then remove him from school."

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.