A fourteen year old boy, a digital clock, and profiling in Texas



I don't know if you've heard about this yet.

A fourteen year old boy in Irving, TX by the name of Ahmed Mohamed built a digital clock out of parts. We're mainly talking about circuitboards and wires, which he stuffed into a box and brought to school to show his engineering teacher and anyone else he thought would find it cool. I gather his engineering teacher did find it cool, but I haven't read about that.

When he showed it to his English teacher, her reaction was very different. She called the principal because she thought it was a bomb. The principal called the police who interviewed Ahmed. They then arrested him for being uncooperative. Their definition of "uncooperative" in this case?

The kid kept insisting it was a clock. 

Yup. He got arrested for telling the truth about what he brought to school.

Now, most bombs involving circuitboards and such have another component:


None in evidence, of course. None present. None claimed. 

I guess the police noticed there were no explosives involved, so what they arrested him for was making a "hoax bomb."

Well, we know that in order to have a bomb, you need explosives. Guess what you need for a hoax bomb? The answer, I think, is awfully obvious, but say it with me:

A hoax.

If you listen to police describe their rationale for arresting him, it basically adds up to the fact that he Didn't perpetrate a hoax. Let's look at this police decision tree:

Kid says it's a bomb--------------------------------\
                                                                            Hoax Bomb
Kid says it isn't a bomb----------------------------/

Ahmed's father was not informed of any of this by the school. He was strictly informed by the police who, when he went to the station, refused to allow him to see his fourteen year old son because Ahmed had been arrested.

I think it would be obvious to most people here that Ahmed was profiled. However, before we jump to such a conclusion, are there any local circumstances that might lead one to suspect profiling?

Glad you asked. (Well, actually, I asked; I'm taking a little license here.)

It seems that the mayor of Ahmed's fair city has recently been involved in a furor over the practices of local Muslim clergy......well, technically, regional Muslim clergy.


Her name is Beth van Duyne. It seems that there's an organization over in Dallas called the Islamic Tribunal that has a website. The Tribunal is a panel of Imams in the Dallas area set up for mediation of disputes between Muslims for a fee, basically paid arbitration. Those handing down decisions are referred to as "judges," basically out of tradition. A lot of religious communities have used clergy to settle disputes, including in the United States, for centuries. The Catholic hierarchy does it, rabbis do it (particularly in Orthodox communities), and I can't imagine these two faiths are alone. And, of course, the standard used to settle these disputes is religious law.

Now, the website involved states explicitly that the Tribunal is "a mediation and non-binding arbitration firm." This is in no way designed to supplant or counter civil law. However, the mediation of course involves Islamic law, which we all know as Sharia. 

Mayor van Duyne proceeded to act publicly and heroically to stand up to the usurpation of civil authority by Sharia law, which of course wasn't happening. She made a point of backing legislation in the Statehouse by Rep. Jeff Leach called American Laws for American Courts, forbidding judges from using foreign laws in their rulings

which is already illegal, of course.

The bill does not mention religion, though Rep. Leach has specifically mentioned the Tribunal when pushing this bill. 

Mayor van Duyne went so far as to go on Glen Beck's internet show to accuse the Imams of attempting to bypass American courts. Beck asked her if the Tribunal was an actual court, and she replied in the affirmative. She later claimed she got that information from the website, the same website that explicitly states that the Tribunal is a mediation and non-binding arbitration firm. 

So we have a Mayor trying to raise a local furor over the imaginary takeover of local law by Muslims, and we wonder why a teacher, a principal, and a police department all jump to conclusions about this fourteen year old Muslim kid. 

I have a daughter a year older than Muhamed. This is a kid.

A kid, I might add, with no history of discipline problems. There was no reason for this teacher not to take the kid at his word. A kid in an engineering class builds something at home and proudly takes it to school. She couldn't have done the normal thing and asked him about it? She couldn't have asked his engineering teacher about it? 

I am not alone in thinking this was idiotic profiling. Ahmed, who doesn't seem to be angry about this (though his father sure is, and his father is no lightweight), has gotten all sorts of attention about this because a lot of key people not only object to profiling, they want to encourage kids to engineer stuff. He's gotten an invitation to the White House. He's been told by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook that if he's ever in the area he should stop in because Zuckerberg would like to meet him. He's been invited to a science fair by Google. He's been offered an internship at Twitter. He's had support tweeted by Hillary Clinton. 

I know from experience that someone is going to say that the reaction of the teacher, the principal, and the police were all reasonable under the circumstances. It always happens. Why? Because there isn't a smoking gun. None of the people who noticed that this kid is a Muslim actually pointed that out during the process leading to his arrest because that's not what people do any more, And there are people who will tell us that the fact that they don't say that in the open any more means bigotry is no longer a significant factor in America. 

4:25 PM Eastern
2 other things you might find interesting:
Ahmed was not only arrested, he was cuffed
As of this writing, he is still suspended from school

And I'll add a question Keiko heard on NPR:
If school officials thought this was a bomb, why didn't they evacuate the school building?

Views: 382

Comment by Arthur James on September 17, 2015 at 5:37pm


trusy ya's?

trust huh?

i admit it?


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waxing Moon 

is to Behold.


I come back 

after some 



gentle compordes?

huh? Composed,

Pleasant thoughts...


it way posy? time for

Innocent `a '  musing 

sane night `a ' drew?

` as '







I hit Home's

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aye Asap...






~,~ ?:)





Comment by Zanelle on September 17, 2015 at 11:02pm

Ten schools on lock down in my old San Diego neighborhood today.  TEN!   http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/9-schools-locked-down-after-threats

I love all the good attention this kid is getting.  Out with the old and in with the new. 

Comment by koshersalaami on September 17, 2015 at 11:08pm
These are actual threats. Ahmed made no threat, for which this 14 year old boy was actually cuffed.

I agree about the attention he's getting.
Comment by Ted Frier on September 18, 2015 at 5:51am

I watched the Chris Hayes segment appalled like everyone else at the treatment of this obviously very bright kid.  And in the context of Ferguson, the racist mobs showing up at Donald Trump rallies and all the rest we are naturally drawing the conclusion that this is just one more nail in the coffin of those who think America's racist days are behind it.  But as I was reading Kosher's column, the uneasy thought did occur to me that the boy and his family might have known exactly what reaction their clock would provoke and how it was likely to make their son a national figure, at least for his allotted 15 minutes of fame, with all of the future rewards (invitation to attend MIT) that people have suggested.  It doesn't excuse the behavior one bit but you have to wonder whether there may have been some calculation involved here.

Comment by Arthur James on September 18, 2015 at 6:44am


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Comment by koshersalaami on September 18, 2015 at 7:41am
Highly unlikely. I've read other articles since. Ahmed was known throughout his junior high as a tinkerer and inventor. He brought stuff to school all the time. He just got into high school and tried what he'd always done.

By the way, in 12th grade, Steve Wozniak brought a device to school, the difference being it really was a hoax bomb designed to scare his principal. Different time. Wozniak's was actually a homemade electric metronome.
Comment by JMac1949 Today on September 18, 2015 at 8:04am

Here's a couple of the latest WTF twists:

No Apologies from Irving's Mayor:


and these comments from the Islamic Association of North Texas:

Muslim Group Doesn't Fault School or Police for Ahmed Mohamed's Arrest


Comment by Arthur James on September 18, 2015 at 8:46am




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Hide and Do a Squeak?



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go hide...

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eat shoo-

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Comment by koshersalaami on September 18, 2015 at 9:29am

The story continues. 

And a new development has occurred that sort of supports Kenny's point. Actually, two, but one very recently. Trump is coming out as way more of a bigot than I originally gave him credit for. The first is in L in the Southeast's most recent post, which is about this:


a video in which Trump is autographing campaign signs and keeps ignoring the Black guy right in front of him waving a sign while signing everyone else's in the area - it's painful to watch. 

Now comes an incident in New Hampshire:


Quite illuminating. 


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