By Joseph Redling-Pace
On September 14th, 2015 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed brought a ‘homemade’ digital clock into MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas in attempts to impress his teachers. However, upon arriving at school, Mohamed was arrested on the grounds of creating a ‘hoax bomb,’ rather than simply practicing his engineering capabilities.
The news of this incident spread like wildfire and the hashtag “#IStandWithAhmed” trended nationally on Twitter within hours. Since his arrest, Mohamed has received invitations to visit multiple headquarters of organizations such as Google, Facebook, NASA, and Twitter, and other locations such as the Google Science Fair, the Dr. Oz show, and the United Nations. Perhaps the most iconic support came from President Obama’s tweet stating, “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.” Due to the national outrage, charges against Mohamed have since been dropped, but the event sparked a discussion about racial profiling and Islamophobia.
Since 9/11 and other terror attacks, safety precautions have been heightened throughout the country. While increased safety precautions are overall beneficial to the safety and security of the United States, some citizens may have grown a bit too cautious and have become prejudice against Islamic people and their culture. Alia Salem, member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has stated, “I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed.” Had Mohamed been white, would the reaction be the same? America is notorious for its perception of being a nation of innovation and entrepreneurial feats. However, when a Muslim teenager has an ambition of building something even as simple as a clock he is discouraged by society solely based on his skin color. What does this say for the nation that is supposed to encourage the exploration of one’s skills, interests, and talents?
While most side with Ahmed Mohamed, the ‘clock debacle’ is not without its critics. Anthony DiPasquale, head of Artvoice.com, reverse engineered Mohamed’s clock and has discovered that he never really even made his own clock. The parts used were just the guts of a “Micronta” clock from the 1980s easily found on eBay and simply put into a pencil case. The choice of a pencil case that looks like a briefcase is a bit “fishy” as it is reminiscent of the briefcase bombs used in some terrorist attacks, DiPasquale also adds.
Former Governor of Alaska and Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin took to Facebook to voice her discontent over President Obama’s reaction, “President Obama’s practice of jumping in cases prematurely to interject himself as the cool savior, wanting so badly to attach himself to the issue-of-the-day, got old years ago.” She believes that President Obama essentially used Mohamed’s situation to make himself look like the good guy looking out for those in need. Palin also asserts that the media should not be so “reactionary-slash-biased,” meaning that the event was immediately determined to be sympathetic to Mohamed without having all of the details of what occurred.
Regardless of the different opinions about Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest, the event certainly has sparked a ‘revival’ in the dialogue concerning the issue of prejudice and racial profiling in America.