This was on Monday September 14th 2015 in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. The next day, a picture of him, a 14-year-old boy in a NASA T-shirt in handcuffs, was posted on Twitter. Twitter went nuts. Even President Obama tweeted his support and invited him to the White House.
Mohamed made his home-made clock (pictured below) out of a circuit board, some wires and a digital display. It beeped too. At his old school he was the Inventor Kid. Just starting high school, he wanted to impress his engineering teacher. His teacher liked it, but told him not to show it to the other teachers.
He put it away, but during English class it started beeping. His English teacher thought it was a bomb. The police took him away in handcuffs.
The police did not think it was a real bomb – they did not call the bomb squad or clear the school. They thought Mohamed was trying to make a “hoax bomb”, meant to look like a time bomb in a Hollywood film.
They questioned him. He asked for his parents to be there. They refused, breaking Texas law about questioning children. He became conscious of his brown skin and his Muslim name. They made him feel like a criminal, like he was less than human.
The police kept trying to get him to admit it was a bomb. He kept saying it was a clock. He never told anyone otherwise. They did not buy it: why would anyone bring a home-made clock to school?
Islamophobia: Earlier in the year, the mayor, Beth Van Duyne, accused a mosque of setting up sharia courts to bypass the law courts of Texas. Imams received threats and had to ask the police for protection. Texas, which is less than 1% Muslim, is so in fear of a Muslim takeover that it has passed anti-sharia laws.
Mohamed’s parents, who are Muslim and from Sudan, feel that the US has been good to them. But Mohamed and other young Muslim Americans, like his sister, feel otherwise, having experienced discrimination and disdain. In fact, just days before on Twitter Muslims shared stories of Islamophobia under the hashtag #AfterSeptember11.
Race: The US press calls him “brown”. Sudan is sometimes considered part of “sub-Saharan Africa”, sometimes not. It seems that most Sudanese Americans born in the US consider themselves Black.
The police say race has nothing to do with it, that they would have done the same to a White boy who brought a home-made clock to school. They will not admit to doing anything wrong.
The police did drop the charges, but the school stuck by its three-day suspension. Mohamed is changing schools.
Mohamed thanked all those who supported him on Twitter and Facebook. He said they made a difference.
– Abagond, 2015.
- racial profiling
- The three pillars of White American racism
- The term “sub-Saharan Africa”