Muslim student arrested, suspended after school assumes his homemade clock is a bomb

America: Not racist, but making a habit of being pretty racist.

At least that’s the message America just sent to Ahmed Mohamed, a ninth grader at Irving Macarthur High School in Texas who was recently suspended and arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school.

Mohamed is the definition of model student. When politicians talk about unlocking the potential of American innovation through high-quality education, they’re talking about this kid. A member of the robotics club in middle school, he threw a homemade clock together in about 20 minutes on a Sunday night in hopes of finding some other kids at school who were interested in being smart and creative with him.

But when he brought his clock to school and showed it to a teacher, she told him not to show it to anyone else and immediately sent alarms up the chain of command.

Keep in mind, this clock didn’t look like a bomb. At all. Described by the Dallas Morning News as “a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front,” this looked about as much like a bomb as 24 looked like American foreign policy. This being the case, the only reason the teachers, administrators and police officers involved assumed that the pencil case telling them the time was actually a bomb was because the person holding that case was brown, and had an Arabic-sounding name.

As one police officer said when he arrived on the scene, “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.” He had never seen Mohamed before; he was just confirming that the student he had been called in to investigate for maybe being a terrorist was, in fact, a brown-skinned Muslim.



And confirming to the rest of the country that the only reason Mohamed’s clock was of interest to him is because this whole episode is a steaming pile of racism.

Throughout the ordeal, teachers, administrators and the police kept asking Mohamed if the he was sure that the clock he had made was not in fact a bomb. Take this exchange, as reported by the Dallas Morning News:

“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.’”

Again, someone’s been watching too much 24.

Local authorities have had a hell of a time explaining to the public why Mohamed still might be charged for bringing a “hoax bomb” to school, despite never claiming that it was anything other than a clock. As police spokesman James McClellan later said, ‘“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb…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?”

Right, but it wasn’t left in a bathroom or under a car. It was brought straight to a teacher. By the kid who made it. To show him this cool thing he had made. Setting aside whatever the clock looked like, that isn’t how someone behaves if they want you to think they have a bomb.

As if this wasn’t all enough, the school has sent a letter to its students’ parents explaining the incident in vague terms and blaming Mohamed for the incident. While acknowledging that there is precisely zero threat posed to their children’s safety, Principal Daniel Cummings wrote:

A homemade digital clock, via htomari / Flickr

A homemade digital clock, via htomari / Flickr

I recommend using this opportunity to talk with your child about the Student Code of Conduct and specifically not bringing items to school that are prohibited. Also, this is a good time to remind your child how important it is to immediately report any suspicious items and/or suspicious behavior they observe to any school employee so we can address it right away. We will always take necessary precautions to protect our students.

Which would be fine, if it were at all relevant to the incident. It isn’t. There’s nothing in the Student Code of Conduct that prohibits students from inventing cool things and bringing them to class. The Code has a long list of banned items, including “look-alike weapons” and “Any articles not generally considered to be weapons, including school supplies, when the principal or designee determines that a danger exists,” but both of those bullet points are completely subjective. Mohamed’s clock didn’t look like a bomb, and danger was only determined after a designee — in this case a teacher — determined that a danger existed because a brown kid had a pencil box with some wires in it.


Reading Cummings’s letter and the Code of Conduct, the lesson Mohamed is supposed to learn here is that rules aren’t colorblind. Had a white kid brought the same clock to class, no one would have sounded any alarm bells, and their work would have been rewarded. For his teachers and classmates, his clock isn’t the danger; he is the danger. His clock isn’t the prohibited item, he and his creativity are the prohibited items.

He seems to have taken that lesson to heart, having promised to never bring any of his inventions to class ever again.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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21 Responses to “Muslim student arrested, suspended after school assumes his homemade clock is a bomb”

  1. The_Fixer says:

    How can a bunch of F’n morons be expected to be effective teachers and school administrators?

    Only in Texas…

  2. GarySFBCN says:

    Reminds me of this – NSFW:

  3. BeccaM says:

    Gets even better: Ahmed’s father ran in 2010 and 2015 in-abstentia in a quixotic campaign for president of Sudan as the candidate for the National Reform Party. (They have no real representation in Sudan, but it didn’t stop him from trying.) According to ElHassan’s campaign website:

    ElHassan is no stranger to adversity and experienced hardship firsthand, and during his lifetime has cultivated a deep sense of humanitarianism, tolerance and patience… Mohammed became proficient in all the religious sciences and has become an aficionado of prose and poetry.

    Moreover, ElHassan Mohamed’s campaign platform included a call for lifting sanctions, ratifying human rights treaties, and repealing the laws against converting away from Islam. He’s also a devotee to the Sufi form of Islam, which is considered to be one of the most progressive, peaceful, and tolerant versions thereof. (And if ya ain’t convinced of that, just read one book of Sufi poetry by Rumi.)


  4. Lordwhorfin says:

    Also, Mayor of town is anti-Muslim loon obsessed with Sharia law. Just sayin’.

  5. Doug105 says:

    Funded by a lawsuit over this crap.

  6. nicho says:

    Yes, build Trump’s wall on the Texas/US border.

  7. Zorba says:

    I certainly hope so. From your mouth, to the ears of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
    R’Amen. ;-)

  8. Indigo says:

    Good! Barry comes through in a pinch. Luv it!

  9. Indigo says:

    That sounds like a better long term deal than Harvard Law.

  10. 2karmanot says:


  11. 2karmanot says:

    It’s Texas after all. I understand the Texas State Board of Education is considered removing the colors: brown, black, red and yellow from all crayon boxes sold in the state.

  12. Zorba says:

    I’m thinking that, instead, he should get a full ride scholarship to MIT, and graduate with honors from there. Then he can use his obvious skills to design and create any number of technological wonders.

  13. BeccaM says:

    Have a look above. POTUS has reached out to Ahmed. It’s not too late to undo the damage.

  14. Don Chandler says:

    They need to redistrict Texas.

  15. BeccaM says:

    HA! Ahmed is vindicated:

    Tweet from President Obama:

    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

  16. BeccaM says:

    Ah, America…The land of incontinent fear-addicts and self-terrorizers.

    Ahmed: I recommend taking this opportunity to talk to your parents to see if they can find a school where your creativity and intelligence will be nurtured and rewarded, and not reacted to with terror, irrational panic, and rather blatant racism. Basically, if you have a teacher who can’t tell the difference between a bomb and an electronic clock with no other parts, you have an incompetent idiot for a teacher — and a racist one, too. Sounds like the idiocy and racism are also endemic throughout your school’s administration and local law enforcement.

    Don’t let them make you responsible for their irrational fears. Y’see, for the last, oh, 14-odd years, quite a few Americans have become pants-shitting cowards. They have nothing useful to teach you.

  17. Indigo says:

    May he graduate with honors from Harvard Law and follow the yellow brick road all the way to the White House.

  18. Hue-Man says:

    This wouldn’t have happened if teachers (and students) carried concealed weapons in school. Instead of going to the bother of reporting the suspicious explosive device, the teacher could have just taken out the terrorist. Are American teachers required to complete high school?

    Although there are Americans who believe it a reality show, I have never seen a single episode of 24. I can name only two (Canadian) actors on the show, Kiefer Sutherland and Carlo Rota who has been transformed into the go-to Arab terrorist mastermind. This from his imdb bio “Born in London and raised in Italy, Hong Kong, the Bahamas and Canada,
    his father, an internationally renowned chef, instilled in him a passion
    for fine cuisine.”

  19. Quilla says:

    Please leave Texas, Mohamed. But don’t move to Florida. And never give up being intelligent and creative.

  20. therling says:

    I’m surprised they didn’t confiscate his terrorist manual, titled “Al Gebra.”

  21. Jimmy says:

    Wow, what a way to crush a person. What this kid just learned is that all the people charged with his education had a predisposition to thinking he could be a terrorist. How else to explain jumping to such and asinine conclusion. These people should be ashamed of themselves. The emotional damage they’ve done to this kid will live with him for years. This school has failed its student. Idiots.

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