The Associated Press
IRVING, Tex.—A 14-year-old Muslim boy became a sensation on social media yesterday, and got an invitation to the White House, after word spread that he had been placed in handcuffs and suspended for coming to class with a homemade clock that school officials thought resembled a bomb.
Police declined to seek any charges against Ahmed Mohamed, but his arrest and suspension ignited a wave of criticism of police and the school.
It also raised suspicions that they had overreacted because of the boy’s religion.
“I built the clock to impress my teacher,” Ahmed said at a news conference in front of his family’s home.
“But when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her,” he noted.
“So it was really sad she took the wrong impression of it.”
Ahmed was pulled from class Monday and taken to a detention centre after showing the digital clock to teachers at his suburban Dallas high school.
Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said the clock looked “suspicious in nature,” but there was no evidence the boy meant to cause alarm at school.
Boyd considers the case closed.
Ahmed said he plans to transfer out of MacArthur High School.
Asked what he would say to other kids who like tinkering, he replied, “Go for it! Don’t let people change who you are, even if you get a consequence for it.
“I suggest you still show it to people, at least show them your talent.”
In a matter of hours, the clock made Ahmed a star on social media, with the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed tweeted more than one million times by yesterday evening.
Linda Moreno, an attorney representing Ahmed, said the family is considering taking legal action against police after officers interrogated, handcuffed, searched, booked, and fingerprinted the teen.
She would not give details on questions he was asked by police.
Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union condemned what they called the school’s heavy-handed tactics.
“Instead of encouraging his curiosity, intellect, and ability, the Irving [school district] saw fit to throw handcuffs on a frightened 14-year-old Muslim boy wearing a NASA T-shirt and then remove him from school,” Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU in Texas, said in a statement.
Among those messaging their support on social media were President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
In a tweet, Obama called Ahmed’s clock “cool,” and said more kids should be inspired like him to enjoy science because “it’s what makes America great.”
The boy also was invited to participate in an astronomy night the White House is organizing sometime next month with premier scientists.