A ninth grader named Ahmed Mohamed was recently arrested in Irving, TX, after bringing a homemade clock to school.
Apparently his teachers thought it could be a bomb.
Let's not sugarcoat this episode. What happened to Ahmed was not an isolated incident, but directly linked to the persistent anti-Muslim sentiments that have permeated American society since the 9/11 terror attacks.
Indeed, Islamophobia is alive and well in the United States.
Ahmed is the furthest thing from a terrorist or criminal, he's a young man with a deep passion for engineering. But his name and appearance stoked fear within the hearts of his teachers, and he was unjustifiably punished because of their ignorance.
The clock Ahmed made was confiscated, and he was then pulled out of class, interrogated by police, handcuffed, dragged out of school in front of his peers, taken to juvenile detention and suspended from school for three days.
Now, Ahmed has vowed never to bring an invention to school again. The prejudice of a public institution meant to develop the next generation of great thinkers has stifled the curiosity and ingenuity of a bright young man. This is a tragedy that cannot be soon forgotten.
Fortunately, many people have recognized the injustice inflicted upon Ahmed, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, the ACLU, Hillary Clinton and even President Obama.
#IstandwithAhmed because we need to fight bigotry AROUND THE CLOCK. — CAIR National (@CAIRNational) September 16, 2015
Ahmed Mohamed's avoidable ordeal raises serious concerns abt racial profiling and the disciplinary system in TX schools. #IStandWithAhmed — ACLU of Texas (@ACLUTx) September 16, 2015
Assumptions and fear don't keep us safe—they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building. https://t.co/ywrlHUw3g1 — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 16, 2015
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
Initially, it was reported he could be charged with making a hoax bomb, but police have announced no charges will be filed, Dallas Morning News reports.
This obviously doesn't excuse what happened to him, nor does it mean the perspectives of those who were driven to call the police on a harmless 14-year-old will be changed.
While many have attempted to argue Islamophobia is a myth, evidence continuously points the the contrary.
As the Washington Post highlights, for example, anti-Muslim hate crimes are around five times more common today than they were prior to 9/11. Before the attacks, anti-Muslim hate crimes occurred at an average of around 20 to 30 per year. But in 2001 alone, that number rose to nearly 500.
As the Atlantic succinctly puts it:
[The] notion that Islamophobia, or irrational fear of mainstream Muslims, is a recognizable feature of post-9/11 America is informed by the several cities that have attempted to stop the construction of mosques, state attempts to ban sharia law as if we're on the cusp of being ruled by it, fears that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, profiling of Muslim college students for no reason other than their religion, [and] the anti-Muslim training materials that the FBI somehow adopted and used after 9/11.
The fact of the matter is the fears that drive these regressive behaviors are fundamentally illogical.
Firstly, the probability of dying in a terror attack is very slim. Second, according to numbers from the New America Foundation, since 9/11 nearly twice as many have been killed in the US by non-Muslim extremist groups (a total of 48), compared to those killed by jihadists (a total of 26).
Americans are far more likely to die from heart disease or gun violence. We are much better at killing ourselves than Islamic extremists will ever be.
Those who fear Muslims should also realize their discriminatory mentality actually places the United States in more danger. Terrorist organizations like ISIS justify their activities by contending the West is at war with Islam. When stories like what happened to Ahmed pop up, they have ample material to support this assertion.
The vast majority of Muslims are not radical, but peaceful individuals seeking to make their way in the world the same as anyone else. Islamic extremists do not speak for all of the over one billion Muslims across the globe.
Intolerance is an enemy to progress and innovation, but a friend to violence, destruction and terror. Hopefully, Ahmed Mohamed's story will help people wake up to this fact.
Citations: Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in US Since 9 11 (NYT), Deadly Attacks Since 9 11 (New America), Islamophobia Is Not a Myth (The Atlantic), FBI Teaches Agents Mainstream Muslims Are Violent Radical (Wired), Anti Muslim hate crimes are still five times more common today than before 911 (Washington Post), Islamophobia Is a Myth (National Review), Family adjusting to Ahmed Mohameds sudden fame as police announce no charges for clock deemed hoax bomb (Dallas Morning News), 9 11 Attacks (History), Eight facts about terrorism in the US (Washington Post), Obama says US at war with those perverting Islam (Al Jazeera), The Future of World Religions Population Growth Projections 2010 2050 (Pew Research Center), Whos Killing Muslims (CNN), ISISs Gruesome Muslim Death Toll (Daily Beast)