A teenage American boy of Sudanese origin was detained by police in the state of Texas after he brought a homemade clock to school to impress his teachers.
Authorities at MacArthur High school in Irving phoned police when 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed came in with the circuit-stuffed pencil case on Monday. The boy, who makes his own radios and repairs his own go-kart, was taken in handcuffs to juvenile detention, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Mohamed’s clock is now in a police evidence room. “Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb – though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it’s a clock,” the report said.
The boy has been suspended from school and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is eyeing claims of Islamophobia in Irving.
“Here in high school, none of the teachers know what I can do,” Mohamed told the newspaper, fiddling with a cable while a soldering iron dangled from the shelf behind him.
He said he loved robotics club in middle school and was searching for a similar niche in his first few weeks of high school. He said he put the clock together in about 20 minutes before bed on Sunday. It consists of a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, with everything placed inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.
Mohamed showed the clock to his engineering teacher on Monday. “He was like, ‘That’s really nice. I would advise you not to show any other teachers,’” the boy said.
He kept the clock inside his school bag but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward. “She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.
“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”
After the police were called to the school, the officers searched Mohamed’s belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel Mohamed if he did not make a written statement.
“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Mohamed was quoted as saying. “I told them no, I was trying to make a clock...He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”
Mohamed never claimed his device was anything but a clock, said police spokesman James McLellan. Police have no reason to think it was dangerous but officers still did not believe the boy was giving them the whole story.
“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?” McLellan said.
“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” said Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, the boy’s father who migrated to the US from Sudan and occasionally returns there to run for president. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”
Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne became a national celebrity in anti-Islamic circles earlier this year by fuelling rumours in speeches that Muslims were plotting to usurp American laws.
“This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” said Alia Salem of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
She said she had spoken to lawyers about the boy’s arrest. “We’re still investigating,” she said, “but it seems pretty egregious.”