September 11 has created an atrocious inescapable shadow in our lives and even though we hate to admit, in the inner space of our minds many of us equate Islam to terrorism—thus, all Muslims are potential terrorists.
Mainstream media has not been innocent in the wrongful imprinting of terrorism and Islam on the same sheet, next to each other. Many have argued that, when a non-Muslim commits any horrendous atrocity, you would hardly catch the media describing his actions as terrorism. But if such a person is a Muslim, mental illness or any other diabolical influence which is mostly cited for the non-Muslims evaporate from the conversation; terrorism becomes the befitting word.
Some smartly say, not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims—which is another great misconception.
What most people do not know is that, “overwhelmingly, those who have committed terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe aren’t Muslims.” Per Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency’s report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups.
In spite of the above and beyond our individual misconceptions, profiling in the area of National Security arguably follows this same unjust labeling; where everyone with a Muslim name is somewhat a potential terrorist. And this is what seems to have happened yesterday when Texas police arrested a 14-year-old Muslim boy for bringing a homemade clock to school.
Ahmed Mohamed proudly made a clock and brought it to school to show his engineering teacher but officials at MacArthur High School in Irving alerted police because they thought the device was a “hoax bomb”.
It’s difficult to establish the connection between the 14-year-old, his self-made clock and terrorism—apart from his Muslim name which puts in the bracket of a potential terrorist.
Ahmed’s arrest which saw him handcuffed has been heavily criticized—with Irving Police Department Chief Larry Boyd having said that; “Incidents like this present challenges. We want to learn how we can move forward and turn this into a positive.”
But Ahmed’s family believes he was detained because of his name— and to be frank, this is the only plausible reason, though deeply unfair. His father-Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who is originally from Sudan, said his son had been mistreated because of his name “and because of 11 September”.
Ahmed’s case brings to light the deep held societal misconception, which is somewhat held among law enforcement agencies too, that certain group of people have the high tendency to cause human havoc.
According to Ahmed, “he made a clock at home and brought it to school to show his engineering teacher. He said his engineering teacher had congratulated him but advised him “not to show any other teachers”. The teenager said another teacher became aware of it when the device beeped during the lesson,” the BBC reported.
The new teacher reportedly said; the clock looked like a bomb. Later in the day the boy was pulled out of class, interviewed by the head teachers and four police officers, handcuffed and put into juvenile detention.
Ahmed’s homemade clock consisted of a circuit board with wires leading to a digital display—a genius engineering by a young boy but clouded by misconception, this was not seen as such by the authorities.
Social media stood behind Ahmed—and today, President Obama even tweeted to invite Ahmed and his ‘famous’ clock to the White House. In a tweet, Obama said “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.”
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 (@POTUS) September 16, 2015
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has stated it is investigating the incident. Alia Salem from the Council said; “This wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn’t Ahmed Mohamed. He is an excited kid who is very bright and wants to share it with his teachers.”
Ahmed’s case clearly points to what is wrong with our systems—and even though we can’t deny the fact that 9/11 has made all of us extremely paranoid, there must be a proper way of red-flagging things which makes less sense of a person’s name or religion.
Even if you think Islam is a mother-lode of bad ideas as Sam Harris boldly stated late last year, I bet you cannot look into the eyes of Ahmed and proudly say he deserves this…