When 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed arrived at school on Monday morning with a digital clock he’d built from scratch, he was keen to show his teachers the fruit of his labours. Instead, he was pulled out of class and arrested for attempting to build a bomb.
Reports say that Ahmed built the clock at home on Sunday night. It’s simple, but demonstrates that he knows what he’s doing: it was built from a small circuit board, power supply and digital display, all housed inside a case decorated with a tiger hologram (he is 14, give him a break). Ahmed showed his engineering teacher the clock, who told him not to show any of the other teachers at MacArthur High School in Irving.
Later in the day, Ahmed sat in English class. Sadly, the clock kept beeping, and a teacher insisted that she be shown what was causing the disruption. When Ahmed revealed the clock, the teacher took it from him.
Then, in the sixth period of the day, the school’s principal arrived in his class with a police officer. Ahmed was arrested and removed from school, and claims to have been interrogated by five different officers, all of whom asked him why he’d been trying to build a bomb. He also claims his principal threatened him with expulsion and that his fingerprints were taken.
It turns out, in a police report released last night, that three teachers from MacArthur High School were listed as complainants against Ahmed — they all thought he’d been trying to build a bomb. When the object was presented to him during questioning, a statement from the police explains that Ahmed “kept maintaining it was a clock” and “offered “no broader explanation”.
The same police statement points out that the clock “could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car”. In fact, Irving police may yet charge Ahmed with building a “hoax bomb”.
Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, thinks the incident is a result of racial prejudice. “Because his name is Mohamed and because of September 11th, I think my son got mistreated” he told The Dallas Morning News.
It certainly seems that Ahmed is an innocent geek: he was a member of a robotics club at his middle school, and in a photo taken by his sister of his arrest, his bewildered expression is framed by the NASA T-shirt he was wearing on the day. There’s now a hashtag circulating on Twitter — #IStandWithAhmed —and many fellow nerds and geeks are offering him support.
Ahmed is now at home, though he’s currently suspended from school for three days. Perhaps some of his teachers should be suspended so they can spend a little time working out what the difference between a digital clock and a bomb is. [Dallas Morning News via Verge]