Update, September 16, 2015 at 1:06 p.m. ET:
According to a new report from the Dallas Morning News, Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd announced that there would be no charges filed against Ahmed Mohamed. He also added that race played no role in the episode, and that “the reaction would have been the same regardless” of the student’s race.
Muslims in America, especially brown ones, can find themselves caught between a mix of expectations. On one hand, they are expected to be model minorities who always excel, particularly in science or technology. On the other hand, they face the Islamophobic preception that they might be terrorists. For Ahmed Mohamed, whose father is from Sudan, these expectations converged in a toxic cocktail when the Dallas-area teenager brought an invention to school and ended up in handcuffs.
The 14-year-old, who is just starting high school in Irving, Texas, has an affinity for robotics and DIY technology and engineering. When he brought a homemade clock to school on Monday, he hoped it would impress his teachers. Instead, two teachers suggested that it looked like a bomb and confiscated it. Later in the day, the principal and a police officer removed Mohamed from his class and led him into a room where four other officers were waiting. An interrogation ensued, with the officers insisting that he was making a bomb and his principal threatening expulsion. According to a police spokesman, “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”
I expect they will have more to say tomorrow, but Ahmed’s sister asked me to share this photo. A NASA shirt! pic.twitter.com/nR4gt992gB
— Anil Dash (@anildash) September 16, 2015
Mohamed was led in handcuffs to a juvenile detention facility, where he was released to his family after fingerprinting. He was subsequently suspended for three days.
His story went viral in the past two days, with many prominent figures commenting on the discriminatory nature of Mohamed’s case. Hillary Clinton weighed in this morning, tweeting, “Assumptions and fear don’t keep us safe—they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building.”
In the interim, a Twitter account created by Mohamed’s sisters has become the center of an advocacy campaign, with the handle “@IStandWithAhmed” also being used as a hashtag. He tweeted messages of thanks to supporters this morning, including the stark one below:
— Ahmed Mohamed (@IStandWithAhmed) September 16, 2015
“This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” said Alia Salem, the leader of the Council on Islamic-American Relations’s North Texas chapter in a statement to the Dallas Morning News soon after Mohamed’s arrest. She was speaking on not only the arrest, but the political climate of Irving, where Mayor Beth Van Duyne has stirred up Islamophobic sentiment by alleging an anti-democratic Muslim plot. Mohamed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, fought similar sentiment and made headlines by debating a Florida preacher who burned a Quran.
Mohamed also tweeted a photo this morning with Salem and others, saying that he’s going to meet with an attorney to discuss the matter.