#IStandWithAhmed: Clock-making teen brings new attention to racial profiling

#IStandWithAhmed is trending on Twitter, highlighting renewed US interest in racial profiling.

Irving Texas Police Department/Reuters
The Irving Texas Police Department released this undated photo of a homemade clock made by Ahmed Mohamed, 14. Ahmed was taken away from school in handcuffs after he brought the clock to his Dallas-area school this week and the staff mistook it for a bomb, police said on Wednesday.

The 14 year-old from Texas who was arrested when a clock he built and brought to school was mistaken for a bomb by a teacher, "just wants to invent good things for mankind," according to his father.

As of Wednesday morning, #IStandWithAhmed was the top trending topic on Twitter; it appears the social media public, at least, supports Mr. Mohamed’s perception of his son.

While Twitter’s geeks are standing behind the young engineer, some messages point to another meaning to the hashtag: solidarity with Ahmed in what appears to be a case of racial profiling.

"Because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated," said Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, Ahmed's father.

The tweeting public seems to have taken for granted that racial profiling played a role in the young clock-builder’s handcuffed exit from MacArthur High in Irving, Texas. The level of support surprised Ahmed himself, who publicly commented:

His surprise is, perhaps, not surprising, given the current political climate in his home state.

The mayor of Irving, Beth Van Duyne, became "a national celebrity in anti-Islamic circles" over the summer, according to the Dallas Morning News, when she gave speeches supporting the idea that the religious minority was plotting to undermine American laws.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations took note, according to the Dallas paper.

"This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating," said Alia Salem, who directs CAIR's North Texas chapter and has spoken to lawyers about Mohamed’s arrest.

"We’re still investigating," she said, "but it seems pretty egregious."

A Texas congressman, Rep. Mike McCaul (R), was the lead sponsor of a bill to create an agency to root out homegrown terrorists. It passed the House's Homeland Security Committee in July but has not come to the House floor for a vote. Critics of the Countering Violent Extremism Act – an amendment to the the Homeland Security Act of 2002 – said it discriminates against Arab-Americans and codifies racial profiling.

Before the attacks on September 11, more than 60 percent of Americans believed that racial profiling was an illegal and immoral method of apprehending potential criminals, according to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Following 9/11, public appetite for such tactics by law enforcement sharply increased, despite evidence showing that racial profiling is ineffective in policing.

To stanch the pervasive use of racial profiling, the End Racial Profiling Act – which would prohibit the practice by local law enforcement nationwide – has been repeatedly introduced the US House and Senate numerous times since 2001, including the last three sessions of Congress.

Activists in the Black Lives Matter movement have been vocal about the role of racial profiling in the deaths of black men at the hands of white officers. The question remains whether Ahmed’s clock will bring more people into the public conversation.

Police in Irving, Texas have opted not to charge the teen with building a what they call a "hoax bomb."

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