Ahmed Mohamed gained national attention on Monday, September 14 when he performed the mundane: after transferring a digital clock to a small case, Mohamed was arrested as officials at his school believed the pencil-case-clad electronics presented a threat to the student body. Under suspicion of creating a bomb, Mohamed was led from the school in handcuffs into the eyes of a country enraged by how the situation was handled.
As Mohamed entered high school, he lost the reputation he had gained with teachers in his earlier schooling; in an attempt to demonstrate his inventive capability, Mohamed brought the clock to school in hopes to impress teachers. After showing his clock to his engineering teacher, Mohamed was recommended not to show the invention to other staff members at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas. After the alarm of the clock went off in his bag in another period, Mohamed was instructed to show the cause of the disruption. Upon revealing the clock to his teacher, it was remarked that the device resembled a bomb.
Mohamed was led to the principal’s office, where he was greeted by police officers. The student left the school in handcuffs. He was taken to a juvenile detention center, where he was searched, had his fingerprints booked, and had his mugshot taken. While the Irving Police Department has acknowledged that there was “no evidence to suggest that there was an intention to create an alarm,” the department may still press charges on Mohamed for possession of a hoax bomb, and Mohamed’s tablet and clock have been confiscated pending investigation.
Upon his reception in the Principal’s office, Mohamed was greeted by several police officers—one of whom allegedly stated, “That’s who I thought it was.” Mohamed believes this statement to be a pointed remark at his religion and race; he is a Muslim of Sudanese descent. About a year ago, such racially charged events as Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement, such a statement has caused an uproar in the national news. Whether or not the statement was legitimately an expression of Islamophobia has yet to be determined, but the local police department has released a statement in which they claimed that “the Irving Police Department has always experienced an outstanding relationship with the Muslim community.”
MacArthur High School has not directly made a statement on Mohamed’s arrest, but students were sent home with a letter which stated that “the Irving Police Department responded to a suspicious looking item” and that “the item discovered did not pose any threat to [students’] safety”.
The national response to the events in Texas has shown an overwhelming degree of support for the teenager. Mohamed has received recognition from current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and Facebook innovator Mark Zuckerberg, as well as a White House invite from President Barack Obama. The teenager has reportedly accepted President Obama’s invitation, and is currently considering transferring out of MacArthur High School according to sources of The New York Times.
The arrest of Ahmed Mohamed has created a perfect storm in American politics; the charge has been perceived as an imposition on innovation, as well as an act of racism. Ahmed has stated that he fully intends to pursue inventing, and has appreciated the support he has received.