Police in Texas said Wednesday that charges will not be filed against a 14-year-old Muslim high school student who was arrested after he brought in a homemade clock that a teacher said looked like a bomb.
The arrest drew an outcry on social media. Hundreds of thousands of people used the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed — and President Barack Obama invited the teen to the White House.
Ahmed Mohamed, who is Sudanese-American, was arrested on Monday in the Dallas suburb of Irving after he took the clock to his high school.
He told The Dallas Morning News that he had been in robotics club in middle school, and he wanted to show his new teacher what he could do.
Ahmed said the teacher told him the electronic clock was nice, then added: I would advise you not to show any other teachers.”
When the clock’s alarm went off during class, Ahmed showed it to his English teacher, who said it looked like a bomb and then confiscated it, the newspaper reported. The teen was hauled into the principal’s office and arrested by police.
As news of the arrest spread Wednesday, Google weighed in with an invitation to its Science Fair this weekend. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted to meet Ahmed and suggested he drop by.
And the president said the clock was cool.
According to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, Ahmed was questioned, handcuffed and taken to Irving police headquarters for interrogation, fingerprinting and mug shots, even though he repeatedly insisted that it was a clock.
"Clearly, there were disassembled clock parts in there, but he offered no more explanation than that," Irving Police Officer James McLellan told NBC DFW.
Ahmed told NBC Dallas Fort Worth that his family surname repeatedly came up in police questioning. "I really don’t think it’s fair, because I brought something to school that wasn’t a threat to anyone. I didn’t do anything wrong. I just showed my teachers something and I end up being arrested later that day," he said.
Mohamed's family suspects that the arrest was related to his last name and Sept. 11. Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne was in the media spotlight earlier this year for a bill that Muslims say targeted their community.
“This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” Alia Salem of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told The Dallas Morning News. “We’re still investigating, but it seems pretty egregious.”
In a statement Wednesday from the ACLU of Texas, executive director Terri Burke said, "Ahmed Mohamed’s avoidable ordeal raises serious concerns about racial profiling and the disciplinary system in Texas schools. Instead of encouraging his curiosity, intellect, and ability, the Irving ISD saw fit to throw handcuffs on a frightened 14 year-old Muslim boy wearing a NASA t-shirt and then remove him from school."
Supporters took to Twitter to offer their support for Mohamed with the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed, which trended overnight, having been tweeted more than 520,000 times by early Wednesday afternoon.
Some noted how differently white children inventors are treated, and lamented the costs of continuing Islamophobia, while others invited Mohamed to discuss college and career opportunities with them.