The Clock-Bomb Controversy

We have seen a huge outpouring of support to Ahmed, the 14 year old boy from US who was arrested when the police thought that the clock he put together, for his school-project, was a bomb.

Soon after the false alarm subsided, the truth was being blown out of proportion, according to some.

Yes, there are many who are supporting the boy who got caught up in some needless racial profiling and some serious religious stereotyping.

But there are many who are criticising the media too, for giving the student undue attention, and for making this an ‘Islamaphobia’ issue.

On the one hand, through a tweet, US President BarackObama invited this ninth-grader from Irving, Texas, to come with his clock to the White House.

And on the other hand, a former US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin sarcastically said, “Right. That’s a clock, and I’m the Queen of England!”

On the positive side, Ahmed had received invitations from Google, Facebook, Space Camp, and even his dream school MIT to visit them!

But on the negative side, Sarah Palin threw a tantrum saying it’s not fair that Ahmed is getting an invite from White House.

She said, kids who bring squirt guns, and bullets after deer hunting with their dads, are usually treated the same way as Ahmed was.

“Whereas Ahmed Muhammad, an evidently obstinate-answering student bringing in a homemade ‘clock’ that obviously could be seen by conscientious teachers as a dangerous wired-up bomb-looking contraption, gets invited to the White House.”

But what upset me more was this. Even after learning that the clock was just a clock built as an educational project, the school suspended Ahmed for three days and sent out a letter to parents the day after he was arrested and released.

The letter is available online with the prominent logos of Ahmed’s MacArthur High School and the Irving Independent Schools District.

It starts like this. “In Irving ISD and at MacArthur High School, your child’s safety and well-being is always our top priority.”

“While we do not have any threats to our school community, we want you to be aware that the Irving Police Department responded to a suspicious-looking item on campus yesterday. 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.”

What is sad, I feel, is the tone of the letter that doesn’t acknowledge that they made a mistake, and implies that in some vague manner that the student himself is at fault for violating the “Student Code of Conduct.”

The letter even advises that “this is a good time to remind your child how important it is to immediately report any suspicious items and/or suspicious behavior they observe to any school employee so we can address it right away.”

Undoubtedly, the paranoia, that if someone is a Muslim and coloured, he could be a terrorist is not going to die down any time soon. But with strong condemnation by others whenever USA makes this kind of error, the chance of a finding a similar error could get minimised.

But if we have to give credit where it is due, we must appreciate the support that Ahmed had immediately received from political leaders and industry bigwigs, from within USA.