Why Did the Ahmed Mohamed Clock Case “Blow Up”?

Ahmed Mohamed is a high school student in Texas who was recently suspended for bringing a home-made clock to school. Just why he was detained and suspended is still up for debate, however.

The story goes something like this. Ahmed built a digital clock with circuit boards and stuff in a black box he got from Target. He showed it to one of his science teachers, who thought it was cool. But the teacher told Ahmed that he probably shouldn’t show it to any of the other teachers. I imagine the teacher’s reasoning was that the clock looked like what people who know nothing about bombs might think a bomb looks like. Being a clock, it probably has a scary amber digital time display and a bunch of scary wiring. You know, like a Hollywood bomb.

In English class, Ahmed’s makeshift clock beeped, alerting the English teacher to its presence. Though Ahmed explained that it was a clock he had made, the teacher apparently flipped out and called the police or something. Ahmed was detained and interrogated without his parents’ involvement. And finally he was suspended.

Naturally, people across the country think that the school and the police department over-reacted. And many people think that the only reason Ahmed and his invention were singled out is because he is brown-skinned and Muslim. I don’t think that’s even a minor part of this story.

In 2007 in Mesa, Arizona, a thirteen-year-old boy was suspended for drawing a picture of a laser gun in class. Yes, suspended. And he wasn’t Muslim. Or brown. This happens pretty regularly. School officials are so absolutely terrified of “another Columbine” that they regularly over-react at even the slightest intimation of danger. The Ahmed Mohamed case is no different.

It is nice to have a face for the narrative of “Muslims are all peaceful and Americans regularly and incorrectly consider all of them to be violent extremists.” But that’s not really what happened here, I don’t think. I believe this situation would have played out similarly with pretty much any other student. Because public schools are ridiculous. And that’s about the sum of it.