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Why Ahmed Mohamed should be a topic at Wednesday’s GOP debate

posted on: Sep 16, 2015

If there were a story tailor-made for the current political moment, it is the story of Ahmed Mohamed. Mohamed is the Irving, Tex., high school freshman whose homemade clock was inexplicably mistaken for a bomb by a teacher at his school.

That is an admittedly generous use of the word “inexplicably.” Mohamed is the son of an immigrant from Sudan. His father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, told the Dallas Morning News that his son “just wants to invent good things for mankind. But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”

That’s not an unreasonable assumption. The incident occurred only a few days after the 14th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. And as the Morning News makes obvious with the “related” stories that accompany its article that the city leadership in Irving, Tex., was criticized earlier this year for a law that some perceived as unfairly targeting Muslims.

Then there’s the “bomb” itself, which Ahmed Mohamed says a police officer told him “looks like a movie bomb to me” — because, presumably, it had a circuit board and some wires. The differentiating factor for a bomb versus another electronic device, incidentally, is that it includes some sort of explosive. It’s akin to the now-funny incident in 2007 when a dumb Cartoon Network joke prompted a call to the bomb squad. At least that “bomb” had to be checked out before it was obviously not a bomb; in this case, the device was a small box that one can probably safely assume contained nothing even remotely explosive-like.

In a letter to parents, the district defended its actions. “[W]e want you to be aware that the Irving Police Department responded to a suspicious-looking item on campus yesterday,” the letter read — its use of “the police responded” doing a neat job of pushing the blame elsewhere. “We are pleased to report that after the police department’s assessment, the item discovered at school did not pose a threat to your child’s safety.” (Except in the sense that it was a clock, which measures time, and time will finish us all in the end.)

So we have: Possible xenophobia in the form of Mohamed being considered a bombmaker, technophobia in the form of a simple device being mistaken as something threatening, and a good example of a government agency behaving in a way that raises legitimate questions.