On September 15, a 9th grade boy brought a clock to school which he proudly made at home. Ahmed Mohamed, a son of a Sudanese-immigrant, was arrested at the age of 14-years-old, because his teachers suspected the clock was a bomb. The young boy simply wanted to impress his teachers with his engineering skills, but was subsequently punished for this seemingly innocent project with a three-day suspension and he may also be charged with making a hoax bomb. Many people, including the boy’s father, are worried that this is an act of Islamophobia.
With the 14th anniversary of 9/11 having recently passed, Americans –especially Muslim-Americans– have been reflecting on the ways the attacks that occurred have affected middle-eastern people around the world. One hashtag on Twitter (#AfterSeptember11) became popular as many Americans with middle-eastern ancestry shared their own experiences with Islamophobia since that day. One Twitter user recalled how her dad tried his best not to “look Muslim” because he feared that he would be attacked after the September 11th attacks. One user shared that her mother was murdered simply for being Muslim, because of Islamophobia caused by the paranoia that came with after 9/11.
Even 14 years after the attacks, there still seems to be a lot of paranoia surrounding Americans with middle-eastern backgrounds and appearances. In the case of Ahmed Mohamed, I do believe this was a case of Islamophobia, not because of the teachers concern that this Sudanese child had created a bomb, but the way he was treated after his arrest. Some teachers have expressed that they don’t believe this was a case of Islamophobia, as they’d be concerned no matter the background of the child. Putting that thought aside, we must address some facts of this case. This 14-year-old boy was interrogated by police without the presence of his parents. The principal even threatened to expel the boy if he didn’t provide a written statement.
What’s even more disheartening is that this boy stated that he would never bring any of his inventions to school again, despite being in an engineering class. The fact that a child who is obviously very talented and bright is now scared to invent and create is incredibly sad. What if this boy created something that could change the world forever? He will surely be scarred by this event, but my hope is that he doesn’t let this affect his brilliance and creativity.
What’s most concerning in my eyes, is the bigger picture: if we keep oppressing children simply because of their ideas and appearances, will we create a generation of kids afraid to speak up and make a difference? Although it’s hard to say if this is truly an act of fear created by Islamophobia, if we keep telling middle-eastern kids they have to be wary because people might not understand that their intentions are pure, could we be holding these kids back from becoming productive, creative members of society? Are we robbing them of their chance to shine in society and prove the misconceptions about them wrong?
There are many questions to be asked not only about this particular case, but about the overall consequences of the paranoia which has caused many middle-eastern Americans to fall suspect of terrorism. The events of September 11, 2001 have changed the world for many Muslim Americans and for anyone who make “look” Muslim in the eyes of the ignorant. Since that day, hate crimes against Muslims are still five times more common than they were before. It’s easy as non-Muslims to brush this off and not see it as a “real” issue, but it’s important that those of us who are not Muslim acknowledge these issues and be a voice for those who are.