By now, you’ve probably heard that 14 year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested on Monday for bringing a clock to school in Texas.

Disregarding the utter absence of explosives to decide that it must be a bomb, his English teacher called the police, whereupon clueless law enforcement officers alternately decided that it might be a fake bomb, and put Ahmed in handcuffs anyway just to be sure.

The school also hit Ahmed with a three-day suspension to punish his inventiveness and curiosity, qualities that are now apparently discouraged in Dallas public schools.

Ahmed’s experience was a thus perfect storm of the brainless zero-tolerance school policies which have criminalized minority children and plain, bald-faced Islamophobia — the unreasoning, irrational fear of anything that seems the slightest bit Arab or Muslim.

Indeed, the two descriptors are often completely synonymous in the ignorant, conspiracy-addled mind of the Islamophobe.

Not a single one of the alleged ‘adults’ who were involved in this fiasco seems to have heard the clever young Ahmed saying, repeatedly, that it was just a clock. Why should they listen to him, after all? Ahmed is brown and his name is Arabic, which unfortunately is all you need nowadays to send a depressing percentage of American ‘grown-ups’ running and screaming in shrill terror like little children.

Because he was wearing a NASA shirt at the time of his arrest, the story has turned Ahmed into something of a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) hero today. Personnel from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have tweeted invitations for Ahmed to come visit them, and President Obama, who has received far more than his share of insane anti-Muslim bias over the years, has even invited Ahmed to bring his clock to the White House.

But while he meets the president to discuss his plans for the future, Ahmed might also talk about the need for better foreign language and cultural instruction in American schools, not just improved STEM classes.

In Houston, which is three hours’ drive time from Dallas, the opening of a new Arabic language immersion magnet school drew protests last month from bigots and knuckleheads in the local community who conflate the language itself with the religion of Islam.

Last week also saw another episode of anti-Sikh violence when Inderjit Singh Mukker of Chicago was brutally beaten by a stranger who called him a “terrorist” and “bin Laden” because he wore the traditional turban of his own faith, which is completely unconnected to Islam.

It was the latest episode of anti-Sikh violence committed by morons who don’t even know, and probably don’t care about, the vast differences between the two religions. That disturbingly-widespread and idiotic trend has been underway since the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks.

Of course, anti-Muslim bias has grown exponentially more pronounced since Barack Obama first declared his candidacy, often through deliberate efforts to lie and obfuscate truth for political purposes.

In 2007, Fox News spend days hyping Obama’s childhood attendance at an Indonesian madrassa during the 1960s to inflame the ignorant fears of viewers who had only ever heard that word in reference to religious schools operated by the Taliban since the mid 1990s, when Obama was already working as a community organizer in Chicago.

In fact, madrassa is simply the Arabic word for a school — such as the one Ahmed Mohamed attends in Dallas — and has never meant anything else at any time during the two millennia before the Taliban appropriated it for their terror training academies.

The fact that to this day, Islamophobes still cite Obama’s madrassa experience as some sort of ‘proof’ of his Muslim-ness, speaks volumes about the widespread derangement underlying Ahmed Mohamed’s experience with ignorant, infantile prejudice.

  • muselet

    For sheer geek fury at Ahmed Mohamed’s treatment, Andy Ihnatko’s post on the subject is angry and sad and honest and profound.

    As for the larger point—Islamophobia in particular and xenophobia in general—we Americans are, as a whole, cowardly ignoramuses. This is nothing new: we panicked when the Irish started arriving, we panicked when the Italians and other Southern Europeans started arriving, we really lost our collective minds when people from Asia started turning up. And every time we saw people who didn’t look or sound or act exactly the way we fancied ourselves to look and sound and act, we met those Others with suspicion and violence and new laws that—by a strange coincidence—just happened to disadvantage those newcomers.

    What’s happening now, from fact-free screeching about Sharia law to arresting clever 14-year-olds, is of a piece with our history.

    How many groups have been declared unassimilable? Racists in the Southwest claim them damn’ Messicans! are refusing to become American (even though Latinos are following exactly the same cultural and linguistic patterns of assimilation as every previous immigrant group). Here in Southern California, the San Gabriel Valley is one of the hotspots for immigration from all over Asia, and some disconcerted white folk are up in arms because their local chain supermarket recently was bought by a local chain catering to Asian-Americans (no one in the store speaks English!, these pale folk wail, probably incorrectly).

    There are people in this country who shake with rage because they have to press a button on their phone to deal with voicejail in English, or see signage in non-English languages, or drive past a single mosque in the midst of dozens of churches.

    So yeah, “derangement” and “ignorant, infantile prejudice” are, sadly, on public display. My question is: when have they not been?

    (Goodness, I do honk on sometimes.)


    • Notice that the post is in the “Idiocracy” category? That’s right, here at BU we have an entire vertical devoted to this American “tradition” of stupidity.