If they thought Ahmed brought a ‘bomb’, why didn’t they evacuate the school?

Published: September 18, 2015
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Irving police chief Larry Boyd insisted that the ethnicity of Ahmed Mohamed, pictured (C) with his family, had nothing to do with the response which saw him taken from school in cuffs. PHOTO: AFP

When they say they thought 14-year-old MacArthur High School student, Ahmed Mohamed, brought a bomb to school, they are lying. They are lying through their teeth.

Let’s examine the facts. This young student of Sudanese origin, who loves engineering gadgets in his spare time, brought a home-made clock to school to show to his engineering teacher. His teacher after examining the device, recognised it as a clock, but realised it could be misinterpreted as something dangerous, and warned Ahmed not to show it anyone else.

According to Dallas Morning News, Ahmed said,

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice. I would advise you not to show any other teachers’.”

Unfortunately for Ahmed, the clock beeped later in the middle of his English class. His teacher after checking it out claimed,

“It looks like a bomb!”

At this stage, Ahmed could have made a timeless clock joke and replied,

“Well, you look like an alarmist.”

Instead, he told her,

“It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.”

There is a meme going around with a picture of the United Kingdom’s most famous clock, Big Ben, and mocks American paranoia by claiming it is a bomb on a rocket ship.

Well, let’s have a look at Ahmed’s clock next to a suitcase bomb, and an actual clock.

If we are honest with ourselves, Ahmed’s gadget doesn’t look exactly like a clock.

Recently, public figures such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Mark Zuckerberg reached out to Ahmed and were wonderfully supportive of him.

Photo: Screenshot

That’s all very nice. But if they didn’t know who Ahmed was, and he went up to them with his suitcase clock, I am sure their security detail would think twice before letting him through.

But I digress.

In the wake of the horrific Boston bombings, it is understandable if American high schools and law enforcement officials wish to practice vigilance. Right-wingers in America, especially those who love Donald Trump, are praising the school’s actions. But is this how you behave if you actually think a student brought a bomb to school?

Here is an excerpt from the Washington Post report:

But the English teacher kept the clock, and during sixth period, Mohamed was pulled out of class by the principal.

“They took me to a room filled with five officers in which they interrogated me and searched through my stuff and took my tablet and my invention,” the teen said. “They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’ I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

But his questioner responded,

“It looks like a movie bomb to me.”

Let’s just pause for a second.

What the heck is a ‘movie bomb’?

Was this 14-year-old boy’s interrogator seriously claiming it was a real bomb because it resembled a fake bomb (I am assuming they don’t use real bombs in movies). Is this how they train the police in the US of A? By asking them to watch reruns of the Lethal Weapon films?

More importantly, did the teachers of this school, the principal, and the five police officers really think it was a bomb?

Think about it. What would you do if you came across a bomb?

Wet your pants?

Run like hell?

Scream for your mother?

I’d probably do all three.

As Facebook user Michael Harriot points out, instead, the school was not evacuated at first chance.

Instead, no one alerted the bomb squad.

Instead, this English teacher, who thought it was a bomb, kept it with her. Why would she keep a device which could kill her at any minute?

Instead, this principal, who thought it was a bomb, let it remain on school property for several hours, where it could kill thousands of school students, staff members, and cute little hamsters in the science lab.

Instead, this student was asked to sit in the office with his ‘bomb’.  Yes, that’s a wonderful idea. Let’s give the ‘terrorist’ his bomb when he realises you are on to him.

Instead, the police carried the ‘bomb’ in their vehicle rather than let a bomb disposal unit handle it. I suggest the police officer watch Katherine Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker instead of Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Also, if it truly was a bomb, did they actually expect the prime suspect to reveal his dastardly master plan like a badly written James Bond villain? Why were they asking Ahmed, instead of asking the only person qualified on school property to answer the question, like his engineering teacher?

Let’s assume it was a bomb. If Ahmed really had invented a bomb to destroy his school, would he have not used it instead of showing it around?

There are some claiming Ahmed’s intention was to manufacture a hoax bomb. If so, why was he at every moment claiming it to be a clock? It isn’t much of a hoax then, is it?

Here is an excerpt from a report by The Verge,

Police spokesperson James McLellan said Ahmed “kept maintaining it was a clock” when he was brought in for interrogation, but that he offered “no broader explanation”.

I don’t know James. Why do you think he offered “no broader explanation” for the inner workings of his clock? Could it be the very reason you wouldn’t explain the theory of gravity to a raccoon?

Just to complete the humiliation, the poor kid was handcuffed and taken to the police station where he was arrested. Yes, arrested. For the rest of his life, his record will be tainted by an arrest because he was smart enough to engineer a clock. With the American school system producing some of the worst performers in the developed world, one would think they would be nurturing their smarter students.

Photo: Twitter Anil Dash (@anildash)

I know that expression. I have a similar one on my face when I read obtuse comments on The Express Tribune Facebook page.

Unfortunately, when they had determined it wasn’t a bomb, the school still inexplicably suspended Ahmed for three days. More outrageously, a letter from the principal to Ahmed’s father was completely devoid of remorse, with no indication of an apology.

I suppose it is not surprising that the principal of this high-school lacks in emotional intelligence as well.

Photo: Screenshot

I don’t know what they are teaching at MacArthur High School in Texas, but they clearly aren’t educating their educators in common sense. While they had a right to be cautious, I believe they knew it wasn’t a bomb. The question is why did they orchestrate a circus with Ahmed as the central attraction?

The internet has let loose countless accusations of racism and religious discrimination against MacArthur High School. Although this is entirely possible, so far there is no evidence of bias. Yes, he happened to be a black Muslim, but mass school shootings taking place in the United States every year have led to ridiculous restrictions on students.

I leave you with the case of a 10-year-old student suspended for ‘making fingers into the shape of a gun’.

No, he wasn’t black. No, his name wasn’t Mohamed.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Danangme

    I agree but my main question is why would a dark skinned muslim family move to Texass? The most crazy state in the unionRecommend

  • ‘Gooz

    many of us have been pointing out the obvious for days now.
    and the press just picks up on it today. genius.
    if ANYONE seriously thought it was a bomb, they would have evacuated the school, called in the bomb squad, put the device in a pressure cell and detonated it….oh wait…it wouldn’t have gone off, because there were no explosives attached to it.
    if the teacher, the principal and the cops could not see that there was no exlposive material there, and then proceeded to arrest and handcuff this kid, they should all be fired.
    if you are going to assume the duties of decision maker about dangerous objects, then you BETTER know what you are doing and what you are looking at. otherwise, leave to the experts….you know…..the EOD guys, not idiot english teachers.Recommend

  • mizmite6

    It is easier for a student to gather the needed chemicals for an explosive from a science class or lab.Recommend

  • jax4_20

    America, the land of fear and bigotryRecommend

  • jax4_20

    America, the land of fear and bigotryRecommend

  • zeuskhan

    Not denying the fact that it was very much the Islamophobia that caused it, but they had accused him of bringing a hoax bomb and not an actual one, which too is a crime. That is the reason they did not evacuate the premise.Recommend

  • zeuskhan

    Not denying the fact that it was very much the Islamophobia that caused it, but they had accused him of bringing a hoax bomb and not an actual one, which too is a crime. That is the reason they did not evacuate the premise.Recommend

  • Zee

    What else you expect from paranoid nationRecommend

  • Zee

    What else you expect from paranoid nationRecommend

  • abhi

    you are getting too much emotional here. The letter you posted here is clearly a general letter, which I suppose would have been sent to every student’s home. Due to standard process followed the same letter reached Ahmed’s parent also. I think teacher knew it is not bomb but they may be wary of his intentions. You can call them over cautious but putting a religious colour is not correct.Recommend

  • abhi

    you are getting too much emotional here. The letter you posted here is clearly a general letter, which I suppose would have been sent to every student’s home. Due to standard process followed the same letter reached Ahmed’s parent also. I think teacher knew it is not bomb but they may be wary of his intentions. You can call them over cautious but putting a religious colour is not correct.Recommend

  • Omer Masood Sadiq

    Your basic assumption is wrong. They did not arrest him for bring a bomb to school, but a ‘hoax bomb’. As such, they were aware that it wasn’t a bomb, but were charging him with bringing a device that looked like one.

    It’s still a lame excuse, but it answers the questions you seem to be angling at.Recommend

  • Omer Masood Sadiq

    Your basic assumption is wrong. They did not arrest him for bring a bomb to school, but a ‘hoax bomb’. As such, they were aware that it wasn’t a bomb, but were charging him with bringing a device that looked like one.

    It’s still a lame excuse, but it answers the questions you seem to be angling at.Recommend

  • Anon

    Another person starting by telling us that the clock did look more like a bomb than a clock. I think you should keep your uninformed opinion to yourself and let the Muslims in America who are far better equipped and are victims of rising Islamophobia deal with it. . . You need to open your eyes and stop thinking of the west and the westerners as demi gods who can do no wrongRecommend

  • Anon

    Another person starting by telling us that the clock did look more like a bomb than a clock. I think you should keep your uninformed opinion to yourself and let the Muslims in America who are far better equipped and are victims of rising Islamophobia deal with it. . . You need to open your eyes and stop thinking of the west and the westerners as demi gods who can do no wrongRecommend

  • Kevin

    Arrests don’t go on your record. Only convictions. Recommend

  • PC aMuck

    For the record he didn’t make a clock. He took an alarm clock apart and put the guts inside a briefcase. Recommend

  • http://batman-begins.com/ Rafael X

    Thanks for being the only writer on the whole US of A who’s wondering why the school wasn’t evacuated.Recommend

  • Hannah Hunt

    Exactly my thoughts. I had to Google the quests “why didn’t they evacuate” just to find this article.Recommend

  • Hannah Hunt

    Or at least ask the engineering teacher who had already seen the clockRecommend

  • Seth

    The FBI maintains a fingerprint database along with the State Police (for the State where the arrest was made). The arrest record is maintained WITH the fingerprint record. You are correct, the record indicates whether or not a conviction was entered, however, try getting a government job with an arrest record. In most cases, it’s difficult to inquire about a juvenile arrest record, unless of course you’re applying for a government job.Recommend

  • Amanda

    No such thing as Isamophobia lolRecommend

  • Megan Goodhart

    The “suitcase” he used also isn’t a suitcase and looks absolutely nothing like a suitcase bomb. It’s a pencil case, one he’d be allowed to take to school. It’s about the size of a novel.Recommend

  • DudeFromDC

    Uninformed decision? How does that thing look like a clock?Recommend

  • ShigDiggyDooWop

    You spelled Florida wrong.Recommend

  • Joe Gargery

    He is not ‘fishing’ for any answers. He brought up a very important fact.
    That was overlooked by a bigoted, racist teacher, and a school principal,
    and a police chief, who are the laughing stock of the ‘South’ …..momentarily.
    Now THAT is nothing unusual in Texas. About par for the Great State of Texas.Recommend

  • Zarak Khan

    It’s a lone star state.Recommend

  • TheTomato

    Come on people. Use your brains. Because they knew it wasn’t a REAL BOMB. Making a hoax bomb is illegal in Texas. That’s why the Police were called. His sister made bomb threats. During the interview, he mentioned that he knew people would think it was a bomb yet he brought it anyway. He also said during the interview that kids had called him a terrorist and bomb-maker in school.

    Obama, Suckerberg, MIT, and all these Tweeters had no idea that the “clock” was just a commercial clock taken apart, or about his sister’s bomb threats. They jumped the gun to call it racism…as usual.

    P.S. Pop Tarts aren’t guns either. I think that kid was suspended for a while, too,and the school was not evacuated.Recommend

  • TheTomato

    think he could have gotten that on a plane? Into the White House? What about a courthouse? Nope. Not in school either.Recommend

  • R Mensen

    Same for me, except I use DuckDuckGo.com so I don’t get any bias in my search results. I searched “did ahmed’s school call a bomb squad”. So happy I am not alone in this thought.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    What did I just read? I mean, what was the point of this?Recommend

  • Danangme

    Floriduh is correct since the 2000 electionRecommend

  • Hugh Janus

    The only time schools evacuate is during a fire. Other types of threats, students will assemble at a safe area or remain locked in the class room until the threat is cleared.Recommend

  • WhatWouldYodaDo

    No they didn’t think it was an actual bomb! They knew it was a HOAX-bomb. So they weren’t scared of it, but they knew that ignoring it was not the appropriate response. This is called a HOAX. The kid gutted a clock and put the parts into a briefcase to make a faux-bomb that he admitted he knew looked just like a bomb. He then shopped it around to 6 teachers until finally one of them reacted as he had hoped (appropriately) and blew a whistle. The school admin wasn’t sure how to handle so they called the police. The school probably realized that since this whole situation smells funny that maybe there would be a lawsuit if they mishandled so they shifted responsibility and called the police. The police determined that it wasn’t a real bomb, just a faux-bomb and spoke with the kid and let him go all within a matter of hours. The family had plans to make this hoax to go viral to attract the attention of the world and amplify the potential damages. Then they continued on with their plans to move to Qatar within 24 hours of this incident. Neither the naive school nor the police had any intention of punishing the kid, they simply wanted to make sure that there was no threat. Then the family decided to punish the entire school district and milk it for $15M. Hmmmm…… If thats not a hoax I don’t know what is. And good luck boarding a plane with that thing in any country. Recommend

  • WhatWouldYodaDo

    Take a look at the ‘clock’ and tell yourself that you would comfortably bring that to the airport with you and not expect to be detained.Recommend