A homemade clock made by Ahmed Mohamed, 14, is seen in an undated picture released by the Irving Texas Police Department September 16. Irving Texas Police Department/Handout via Reuters

The story of Ahmed Mohamed shows the daily racism experienced by Muslim children in America

A homemade clock made by Ahmed Mohamed, 14, is seen in an undated picture released by the Irving Texas Police Department September 16. Irving Texas Police Department/Handout via Reuters

A homemade clock made by Ahmed Mohamed, 14, is seen in an undated picture released by the Irving Texas Police Department September 16. Irving Texas Police Department/Handout via Reuters

By Amer F. Ahmed

As a Muslim with Ahmed in my name, I am acutely aware of how much it sucks to be a brown guy with my name in post-9/11 America. I know plenty about the experience of being racially profiled with a name that causes significant suspicion by law enforcement and others in our society. When I learned about the recent experience of 9th grader Ahmed Mohamed being arrested and interrogated by police without his parents present in Irvine, Texas, I was angry and deeply sympathetic. What a horrible experience for a child to be accused of creating a bomb when simply seeking the approval of your engineering teacher for building a clock at home.

In seeing Ahmed through the media, he reminds me of myself when I was a kid as well as so many of my friends, cousins, nieces and nephews who were all children of South Asian immigrant Muslims. He reminds me of all the beautiful kids that I always see running around at any mosques I visit. Ahmed’s parents and family remind me of all the “uncles” and “aunties” of my community that were all around me on a daily basis. I can almost hear the things they have been saying to Ahmed during his upbringing (like my parents and others in our community always said):

“Focus on your studies. Do not be distracted by other things. Don’t make any excuses, no matter how bad you are treated. You should be thankful that we are in America and they let us into their country. We have opportunity here that we did not have back home. Don’t cause any trouble or bring any attention to yourself. Try to be a doctor or an engineer, don’t get involved with politics and don’t talk to anyone about controversial things like religion. Be a good Muslim boy and respect your elders. Listen to what the teacher tells you. Always make the teacher happy and do what they say.”

It is that last part of the message that I believe led to Ahmed wanting to share his clock with his teacher. As soon as I found out that he was seeking this teacher’s approval, I immediately knew it was because he has been encouraged to desire that approval by his family and community. It’s so deeply engrained in our culture to want your teacher’s approval and for them to think positively of you. I can only imagine how painful it was for him to watch his teacher then transform the situation into one of deep suspicion, followed by irresponsible administrators exacerbating the situation by bringing in the police. As we now know, the police compounded the trauma by arresting and interrogating him.

On so many levels, I can relate to Ahmed and his family. However, despite the fact that I can relate to Ahmed in so many ways, there is one way in which I cannot relate to him. That is because I lived for 22 years in America prior to September 11th, 2001. I did not, as Ahmed and so many Muslim children in America are, grow up in post-9/11 America. When I look at my life, it is impossible to avoid the bifurcated reality of being Muslim in America before and after 9/11. For most Muslims, it fundamentally altered our experience in this country. We went from a largely unknown group to a vilified community with deeply held suspicions surrounding us. Although there were plenty of marginalizing experiences related to being a person of color before 9/11, it has been nothing like the persistent attack and vitriol directed at us since then.

Despite the sense of loss that emerges from the complete alteration of the American experience for American Muslims like myself, I hold much more concern for young Muslims like Ahmed. They only know an American experience that has consistently communicated openly bigoted views of them in the public discourse. In addition, they have grown up in a country that deems it to be acceptable to profile us, criminalize us, vilify us, and stereotype us as violent terrorists. I want you to imagine what it is like for the American Muslim children of this country who have watched Islamophobes like Bill Maher, Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump hold mainstream appeal. Muslims are one of the few groups in which people who espouse overt hate towards us are not marginalized and/or discredited. If the same things that are said about Muslims were said about anyone else (e.g. Black, Jewish, etc.), there would be widespread condemnation. When someone spreads hate about us, it’s par for the course.

Every day through American media, Muslim kids are told that there is something wrong with them for being who they are and that they fundamentally are not American. Let’s just use the whole “Barack Obama is a Muslim” thing as an example (which ironically is rearing its ugly head once again at Trump town halls and campaign stops). The reasonable position on this issue is to say, “He’s not a Muslim, he’s a Christian.” What has never been the dominant response to that has been, “So what if he was?” The entire framing and response of the issue is predicated on the assumption that there is some sort of inherent problem with being a Muslim. This has been the message that Muslim children have been receiving for much of their lives. Quite honestly, this is the most benign aspect of the manner in which they have been vilified and articulated as being outside of the parameters of what it means to be American.

Given that there has been outrage over the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, some may say that this proves that people do care and recognize that Muslim children should not be criminalized with this type of suspicion. However, given the bullying, hate and vilification that Muslim children have been subjected to in this country, why did it take this incident for people to develop some empathy? (In fact, in a recent interview, Ahmed mentioned that he has been teased for being Muslim and called terrorists by his peers prior to this incident.) I could ask the same question regarding the lack of empathy for children of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world? Why did it take seeing the horrific image of a toddler washing up to shore for people to realize the inhumanity of what is happening to Muslim children in this world? What is it going to take for people to realize that these children that are being criminalized, vilified and therefore dehumanized are part of the human family and are worthy of life, dignity and respect?

It is my hope that the case of Ahmed Mohamed can be a turning point for us to recognize that we must confront Islamophobia in real and serious ways in the country. Time will tell if people use this as an example that highlights our need to shift course. If we allow this vilification to continue, there are dark chapters in American history that reveal the extent of horror that can occur in this country. We must do so for the betterment of this entire country, not just for Muslims (and Muslim children).

Editor’s note: Amer F. Ahmed is an Associate Faculty member at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication and a member of SpeakOut: Institute for Democratic Leadership and Culture. An individual with eclectic personal and professional experience, he is a Hip Hop activist, spoken word poet, diversity consultant and college administrator, channeling his diverse experiences into work geared towards facilitating effective intercultural development. This article originally appeared in UmmahWide.


Why some oppose Ahmed Mohamed

By Carissa D. Lamkahouan
TMO Contributing Writer

By now most of the nation knows the name Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Irving, Texas, high schooler who last week was arrested, detained and eventually suspended for bringing to school what officials claimed they suspected was a “hoax bomb” but was indeed a homemade clock. Ahmed said he had a fondness for building and wanted to impress his teacher with his work, never suspecting he would be labeled a potential threat. When the news broke, much of the nation erupted into outrage and disbelief, claiming the boy’s brown skin and Muslim faith had more to do with his arrest than the validity that he had attempted to endanger the lives of his classmates and teachers. The story even reached the White House, with President Barack Obama inviting the teen to Washington and calling his invention a “cool clock.”

However, some Texas teachers feel Ahmed’s teachers were correct in the way they handled the situation. They asked the question, “What if someone hadn’t been suspicious and it was a bomb?”

“As teachers our job is to protect our students,” said an elementary school educator in Texas’ Fort Worth Independent School District who asked not to be identified by name. “With that being said, if I think something is suspicious I’m going to report it. It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, tan, brown, or blue I have to look out for all my students. I would have hated for the opposite to happen where the teacher thought something was wrong but ignored her gut feeling and students ended up being hurt in the end.”

Tiffany Jones, a pre-school teacher in Houston Independent School District, agreed and called out those who would decry Ahmed’s situation as fueled by race issues in general and bigotry toward Muslims in particular.

“I think everybody’s going to pull a race card when it hits them,” said Jones, who asked to be identified as black. “I don’t think this had anything to do with race because, as teachers, we are required to report anything that looks suspicious or may be suspicious. If we don’t and someone else sees it, like a principal, that will blowback on us. I would have done the same thing (if I were Ahmed’s teacher).”

Despite her opinion that MacArthur administrators were justified in suspecting the clock was a possible bomb, Jones said teachers have to work to build a strong relationship with their students. She said being familiar with the children under their charge enables teachers to make better judgement calls when it comes to kids’ behavior and what they’re capable of.

“You have to build a rapport with your students,” said Jones. “If you do that you will know what type of kid they are, if they’re a loner or an outsider or whatever. If you have that relationship with them and they do something that warrants suspicion then, yeah, you might have your concerns”

Houstonian Summer Hopkins said a culture of giving people the benefit of the doubt would have gone a long way toward diffusing Admed’s situation earlier and possibly prevented his arrest and suspension.

“I wish as a country we could give people the benefit of the doubt,” she said.
Still, Hopkins admitted the situation is delicate, particularly since it played out at a school campus. She said school administrators may have felt they had no choice but to act as they did.

“(Ahmed) did do something he shouldn’t have, and he disrupted the school,” she said. “I agree with him being suspended, and it doesn’t matter what color his skin is. In fact, he shouldn’t get off completely because of his skin color. Saying he can’t be punished without being victimized is exactly what’s wrong with this country and with our society. We are forgetting about individual responsibility by letting everyone cry victim whenever they feel they are wronged in some way. That does even more damage by taking credibility away from those who really are victims of racial inequality and bigotry.”

Despite the school’s decision to suspend Ahmed, his parents made the decision to pull him from MacArthur High School. Since the incident, Ahmed has been invited to the White House to meet with the president and has been offered a tour of MIT, regularly ranked as the top technical and mathematics school in the world.


Texas Muslim arrested for bringing clock to school

A homemade clock made by Ahmed Mohamed, 14, is seen in an undated picture released by the Irving Texas Police Department September 16, 2015. Mohamed was taken away from school in handcuffs after he brought the clock to his Dallas-area school this week and the staff mistook it for a bomb, police said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Irving Texas Police Department/Handout via Reuters

A homemade clock made by Ahmed Mohamed, 14, is seen in an undated picture released by the Irving Texas Police Department September 16, 2015. Mohamed was taken away from school in handcuffs after he brought the clock to his Dallas-area school this week and the staff mistook it for a bomb, police said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Irving Texas Police Department/Handout via Reuters

CAIRO – A Texas Muslim student, who wanted to impress his teachers with his homemade clock, was arrested by Dallas police after his school claimed that he tried to make a bomb.
“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” student Ahmed Mohamed, from Irving, Texas, told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday, September 15.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.”

The 14-year-old student was explaining how his homemade clock was mistaken for a bomb when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson at MacArthur High school in Irving.

The Muslim student hoped to impress his teachers by one of his most elaborate creations that consists of a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.

However, Mohamed was disappointed as he didn’t get the reaction he hoped for, after showing his clock to the engineering teacher.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Mohamed said.

“‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

Mohamed’s clock was confiscated during his English lesson when its alarm kept beeping.

The English teacher and the principal reported their skepticism to police who arrested Mohamed after pulling him out of sixth period.

At the police station, the Muslim teen was interrogated by four police officers.

“Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” one of the officers, who Mohamed had never seen before told him.

“I tried making a phone call to my father. They said, ‘you’re in the middle of an interrogation, you can’t have a phone call,’” Mohamed told NBC.

“I really don’t think it’s fair because I brought something to school that wasn’t a threat to anyone. I didn’t do anything wrong. I just showed my teachers something and I end up being arrested later that day.”

Commenting on the case, police spokesman James McLellan said that they have no reason to think Mohamed’s homemade clock was “dangerous”.

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” McLellan said.

“He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

September 11

The student’s father, who encouraged him to demonstrate his gift for technology, said that he was shocked by incident that came a week after the 14th anniversary of 9/11 deadly attacks.
“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” said Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated from Sudan and occasionally returns there to run for president.
“But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”

Condemning the discrimination against the Muslim student, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said that it will be investigating the issue.

“This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” said Alia Salem, who directs the council’s North Texas chapter and has spoken to lawyers about Ahmed’s arrest.

“We’re still investigating,” she said, “but it seems pretty egregious.”

The arrest and the suspension of the Muslim student have sparked anger among social media users who lamented injustice and discrimination.

“I bet they wouldn’t have arrested the student if he was a different race/religion … it was really his name that made it a crime, though,” one Facebook user wrote.

Another said: “I couldn’t believe a teacher would be so stupid to do that to a child and shame his life like that in front of millions of people shame on the teacher. Racism needs to stop.”
#IStandWithAhmed, was also launched to show solidarity with the Islamophobia victim.

Suspended for three days from his school, Mohamed vowed never to take an invention to school again.

“They thought, ‘How could someone like this build something like this unless it’s a threat?’ he said.

Editor’s note: US President Barack Obama has invited Ahmed Mohamed to visit him at the White House.



tufailBefore the invention of mechanical clocks, timepieces used the sun’s motion or simple measurement devices to track time. The sundial may be the best known ancient keeper of time, and it is still manufactured as a popular garden accessory—but for its visual interest, not for practical time measurement. Stonehenge, the giant monument built of upright stones on the Salisbury Plain of Wiltshire, England, may have been used as a sundial and for other time and calendar purposes. Sundials have obvious disadvantages; they can’t be used indoors, at night, or on cloudy days.

Other simple measurement devices were used to mark time. Four basic types could be used indoors and regardless of the weather or time of day. The candle clock is a candle with lines drawn around it to mark units of time, usually hours. By observing how much of the length of a candle burned in one hour, a candle made of the same material was marked with lines showing one-hour intervals. An eight-hour candle showed that four hours had passed when it had burned down beyond four marks. The clock candle had the disadvantages that any changes in the wick or wax would alter burning properties, and it was highly subject to drafts. The Chinese also used a kind of candle clock with threads used to mark the time intervals. As the candle burned, the threads with metal balls on their ends fell so those in the room could hear the passage of the hours as the balls pinged on the tray holding the candle.

The oil lamp clock that was used through the eighteenth century was a variation and improvement on the candle clock. The oil lamp clock had divisions marked on a metal mount that encircled the glass reservoir containing the oil. As the level of oil fell in the reservoir, the passage of time was read from the markings on the mount. Like the candle clock, the oil lamp clock also provided light, but it was less prone to inaccuracies in materials or those caused by drafty rooms.

Water clocks were also used to mark the passage of time by allowing water to drip from one container into another. The marks of the sun’s motion were made on the first container, and, as water dripped out of it and into another basin, the drop in water level showed the passage of the hours. The second container was not always used to collect and recycle the water; some water clocks simply allowed the water to drip on the ground. When the eight-hour water clock was empty, eight hours had passed. The water clock is also known as the clepsydra.

Hourglasses (also called sand glasses and sand clocks) may have been used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, but history can only document the fact that both cultures had the technology to make the glass. The first claims to sand glasses are credited to the Greeks in the third century b.c. History also suggests sand clocks were used in the Senate of ancient Rome to time speeches, and the hourglasses got smaller and smaller, possibly as an indication of the quality of the political speeches.

The hourglass first appeared in Europe in the eighth century, and may have been made by Luitprand, a monk at the cathedral in Chartres, France. By the early fourteenth century, the sand glass was used commonly in Italy. It appears to have been widely used throughout Western Europe from that time through 1500. The hourglass or sand clock follows exactly the same principle as the clepsydra. Two globes (also called phials or ampules) of glass are connected by a narrow throat so that sand (with relatively uniform grain size) flows from the upper globe to the lower. Hourglasses were made in different sizes based on pre-tested measurements of sand flow in different sizes of globes. A housing or frame that enclosed the globes could be fitted to the two globes to form a top and bottom for the hourglass and was used to invert the hourglass and start the flow of sand again. Some hourglasses or sets of hourglasses were set in a pivoted mount so they could be turned easily.