Clockwork Controversy

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Daniel Maibenco, Columnist

Who knew one alarm clock could start such ruckus?

Of all the things that could cause a 14-year-old student in Irving, Texas to be put in handcuffs and suspended, a homemade clock did the trick. Apparently, Ahmed Mohamed brought his homemade clock to school to show others.

His goal was to show his teacher his engineering aspirations. But the clock appeared bomb-like, so he got arrested and punished. To many, this should be the end of story. An open and shut case. Right?

Wrong. This story is far from over. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

What’s wrong with this case? I’ll start with the police. Yes, they were called to investigate this possible bomb threat. They did their job by accurately determining that Ahmed did not possess a bomb.

Still, they arrested him. Why? They would have sent just as much of a message to Ahmed and the community at large if they would have told him to keep the clock at home. They could have warned and scared him, but at the same time sent a message of understanding.

They could have been seen as a voice of reason and common sense. Instead, they chose to arrest him. By doing so, they helped portray this incident as one of Islamophobia, and the social media is having a field day with it.

MacArthur High School is also at fault. At first, they did nothing wrong by questioning Ahmed and his homemade clock. When a teacher sees something suspicious, they are supposed to say something, not ignore it.

Ahmed and his clock were questioned not due to profiling, but out of genuine concern. It showed that the teachers were worried about the safety of not just Ahmed, but of all the students. But the school made their error in how they reacted to this issue.

Ahmed needed to be told that he made a mistake. His clock does not look innocent and could be perceived as such. Even still, he was treated harshly and with ignorance.

The school reasonably scrutinized his clock, but they also treated him like an assumed wannabe terrorist. That notion is wrong. They were right in trying to punish him, but owe him an apology for letting the situation get out of control.

Ahmed was treated badly and wrongfully detained by police. But this entire incident was not driven by some vendetta against him.

Bringing that clock to school was a gaffe on his part. If he really wanted to show others his homemade clock, he could have talked it up, especially with the teacher. He shouldn’t have just brought his device to class thinking nothing will happen. We live in an age driven by technology and fear of the unknown. Due to that notion, anything can happen.

If he is the tech wiz he is touted to be, he should know that. Ahmed had a good intention, but he was put through the wringer because he could not accurately describe what he had built.

This case is a total mess. No matter who you support here, both sides do have valid points. Ahmed shows that people make mistakes in judgment but do not need to be vilified if there was no bad intention.

On the other hand, the school and police did the right thing by questioning the alarm clock. But no one has the right to demean and belittle anyone due to stereotypes.

Within a week of this incident, Ahmed is receiving universal praise and support while the local police and high school are being scrutinized.

All of the facts deserve to be looked at and acknowledged. This entire controversy was not started by one person. It was started by many. Now, it involves a social media movement and a whirlwind of political commentators.

Some are still accusing the local Texas school of being Islamaphobic. Some accuse Ahmed of lying about the true functionality and origin of his homemade clock. This controversy will not die down and all these claims will be investigated.

Whenever people act without thinking, something bad always happens. If lies and scandals are found out and then proven to be true, it silences the voice of optimism.