Ahmed Mohamed, a Muslim ninth-grader in Texas, probably didn’t start the school week expecting to become a worldwide trending hashtag on social media by Wednesday. But that's exactly what's happened following the 14-year-old student's arrest Monday after his teacher and principal suspected the homemade clock he brought to school was instead a homemade hoax bomb.
But after an investigation, police in the Dallas suburb of Irving announced Wednesday that there was no evidence to support school officials’ assumption that the teen brought the item to school with the malicious intent of causing harm. Authorities would not press charges against the student, Chief Larry Boyd.
The teen’s story sparked the #IStandWithAhmed hashtags on Twitter and Facebook, in which Muslims, non-Muslims, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and even President Barack Obama criticized officials’ action against the aspiring inventor. Some said Mohamed had been a victim of Islamophobia and discrimination experienced daily by many Muslims around the U.S.
Assumptions and fear don't keep us safe—they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building. https://t.co/ywrlHUw3g1
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 16, 2015
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great.
— President Obama (@POTUS) September 16, 2015
— Bobak Ferdowsi (@tweetsoutloud) September 16, 2015
— Simran Jeet Singh (@SimranColumbia) September 16, 2015
We need to be encouraging young engineers, not putting them in handcuffs. #IStandWithAhmed
— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) September 16, 2015
Mohamed was overwhelmed by the supportive response, he said Wednesday, as the hashtag had been shared on Twitter more than 458,000 times, according to Topsy, the Twitter analytics company. A message of thanks was posted to the Twitter account purportedly belonging to the teenage inventor.
— Ahmed Mohamed (@IStandWithAhmed) September 16, 2015
Mohamed endured a few hours of questioning at a juvenile detention facility Monday before he was released to his parents, he said. His invention was also confiscated and he was given a three-day suspension from school, according to local media.
Irving police said the MacArthur High School freshman had a briefcase containing a digital clock that had been taken apart and rearranged, the local ABC affiliate, WFAA-TV reported. Mohamed plugged the device in to an electrical outlet during his English class.
When the briefcase started to make noise, a teacher confiscated the case. A short time after that, the principal and a school resource officer pulled Mohamed out of class for questioning. The teen was also handcuffed and removed from the school.
Despite repeatedly telling school officials and four police officer that the device was just a homemade clock he had been experimenting with, Mohamed said authorities asked him if he had tried to make a bomb. Authorities eventually released Mohamed to his parents without criminally charging him, according to WFAA-TV.
— Robert Wilonsky (@RobertWilonsky) September 16, 2015
I expect they will have more to say tomorrow, but Ahmed's sister asked me to share this photo. A NASA shirt! pic.twitter.com/nR4gt992gB
— Anil Dash (@anildash) September 16, 2015
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national civil rights organization for Muslims, said Tuesday that it was investigating Mohamed’s case for evidence of anti-Islamic bias. “This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” Alia Salem, director of the organization's North Texas chapter, told the Dallas Morning News.
“I think this wouldn’t even be a question if his name wasn't Ahmed Mohamed,” Salem said about the student’s arrest, in a WFAA-TV report. “He is an excited kid who is very bright and wants to share [his invention] with his teachers.”
Boyd, the Irving police chief, denied Wednesday that Mohamed’s race and religious background influenced the decision to arrest and question the teen. “Our reaction would have been the same regardless [of race],” Boyd said in a press conference Wednesday morning.
A spokeswoman for the Irving Independent School District declined to comment on the specifics of Mohamed’s ordeal and said it would not release additional information unless it had permission from the teen’s parents. "We always ask our students and staff to immediately report if they observe any suspicious items and/or suspicious behavior," read a statement by the Irving school officials.
Mohamed, his father, and CAIR attorneys planned to meet with the principal and the police chief Wednesday, Boyd confirmed during the press conference.