An Irving, Texas, teenager who loves tinkering with electronics and computers learned an important lesson this week about the American values of hard work, individual initiative, and original thinking this week. And that lesson is that if you exhibit those qualities around a bunch of terrified bigots, they’ll suspend you from school and start a criminal investigation into your likely terrorist tendencies. It’s an important lesson that several other kids have learned: Adults are all too often small-minded, bigoted fucks, especially the ones in authority. Really, you can’t teach your children this early enough.
So there’s this smart nerd kid at Irving MacArthur High School named Ahmed Mohamed. He likes to build radios and tinker with his own go-cart — your basic brainiac who’s clearly destined to be a well-paid engineer. As the Dallas Morning News reports, he “loved robotics club in middle school and was searching for a similar niche in his first few weeks of high school.” So he thought it might be cool to show off a little for his engineering teacher, and made a little clock inside a pencil case. Nothing too elaborate; just a little thing he banged out in about 20 minutes before going to bed Sunday. Very simple: “a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.” And then when he got to school Monday morning, he really started getting more of an education than most 14-year-olds really need:
He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn’t get quite the reaction he’d hoped.
“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”
He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward.
“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.
“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”
Well, of course it doesn’t. But YOU look like a bomb-maker to your English teacher, and that, Ahmed, is all that mattered. The teacher confiscated the device, and in sixth period, the school principal and a cop showed up to remove Ahmed from class, and things went from stupid to surreal:
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.”
A really paranoid reader might think the Irving Police Department is keeping Muslim 9th graders under surveillance or something. Ahmed has never been in trouble with the law. Or maybe the cop was merely expecting a Muslim kid. After that came the questioning, in a scene worthy of anything from Catch-22:
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.’”
Well, there’s your problem! You watch too many movies and have become over-excitable. Oh, and fascist, too. Perhaps you should consider a career in Boston, where public officials have made a specialty out of freaking out over blinking lights.
Irving police acknowledge that Ahmed has consistently said the clock is a clock, and only a clock. Police spokesman James McClellan, another real piece of work, was obviously not impressed:
“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”
Asked what broader explanation the boy could have given, the spokesman explained:
“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”
Damn you, Ahmed, why didn’t you give some thought to the possibility that if you’d done a whole bunch of things that you didn’t actually do, that little clock could have been used to incite panic? At this point, Ahmed should be grateful they didn’t also accuse him of carrying sharpened pencils that could have been used to gouge someone’s eye out. And so Ahmed was handcuffed and marched out of the school in front of other students, an officer on each arm in case he tried some tricky terrorist judo. After taking him to a juvenile detention center and fingerprinting him, police released him to his parents. No charges have yet been filed against Ahmed, but the police are still investigating. The North Texas chapter of the Council on Islamic-American Relations is investigating as well; a spokeswoman said, “This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate[.]”
Irving, you see, is probably not a great town in which to be a smart Muslim teenager these days. During one of the state’s regular Islam Panics, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne became a hero of the wingnuttosphere last spring when she publicly condemned a Muslim mediation service as an attempt to “bypass American courts,” although the service was no different from private dispute-resolution services offered by Catholic and Jewish groups. Actually, it was totally different: It involved scary Muslims, and if you let them resolve a contract argument, then obviously the next step is imposition of Sharia, public beheadings of Christians, and police arresting innocent children for wholly imaginary crimes. Also, too, Irving is just 25 miles down I-635 from Garland, which hosted the Draw Mohammed Contest where the First and Second Amendments shot it out in May.
Ahmed should return to school Friday, after his three-day suspension for being too smart but not aware enough of the idiocy of others. The news story closes by noting, “He’s vowed never to take an invention to school again.”
See? Definitely a fast learner.