Among the hot-button issues in today’s political sphere, Islamophobia and overall race/ethnic relations rank quite high, especially in regard to the treatment given to certain races, religions, and ethnic groups from governmental authorities, such as the police. When 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested after he brought a homemade alarm clock to school and it went off in class, each side of the political spectrum leapt into action. For those on the left, this was clearly a case of Islamophobia representative of the larger struggle of Muslims in the U.S. For conservatives, the incident itself was “precaution” on the school’s part, and accusations of Islamophobia were political correctness and race baiting run amuck.
Let’s take a moment to analyze the situation.
What happens when there’s a bomb threat at a school or when a student is suspected of bringing a dangerous device to a school? Certain protocols are followed to hopefully ensure student safety. The school will either be locked down or evacuated. Police, SWAT, and, if necessary, a bomb squad will be rapidly dispatched to the school. The situation is dealt with swiftly, as it should be. It’s true that this is precaution. It’s true that it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when “being safe” is properly executed, which it usually seems to be. It’s also true, as many accusers of race baiting will point out, that White, Christian students, too, have been victims of overly cautious zeal.
The problem is that the case of Ahmed’s clock does not fit the scenario of being overly cautious. Ahmed brought in a device that some have said could potentially have been viewed as a bomb. His teacher recognized that the device could be misidentified, but also recognized the device was, in fact, simply a clock. Ahmed was sent to an administrator’s office, “bomb” in hand. Ahmed then sat in the office holding his “bomb.” Meanwhile it was business as usual in the rest of the school. Police arrived, agreed with administrators and teachers that Ahmed was holding a clock, then proceeded to put Ahmed in the back of a police car with his “bomb.” No evacuation, no SWAT, no bomb squad. No protocol for a bomb threat was enacted – not even close. The entire situation was handled in such a manner that it’s painfully obvious that no one was acting out of caution. Had they been acting upon cautiousness, bomb threat protocols would have been followed. Further, there are examples of other students making similar or even more dangerous devices and not being arrested. A student in Kiowa, Colorado built an actual fertilizer bomb and wasn’t punished. An actual bomb, no arrest.
Given this information and this perspective of the events, it’s hard to imagine why on earth Ahmed was picked out and arrested. Administrators and police certainly weren’t suspicious the item was a bomb, otherwise they would’ve acted differently, plus they admitted they knew it wasn’t a bomb from the start. It’s not unusual for students to bring in such devices and not be punished. So why did this happen? This happened because Ahmed Mohamed himself, as a Middle-Eastern Muslim with a name that some people fear, was judged based upon his appearance, faith, and name. It was immediately acknowledged that he was a non-threat and that he was not doing anything unusual, yet he was arrested for who he was. That is Islamophobia. That is absolutely unacceptable in any nation that claims to promote freedom, liberty, justice, and equality.
Conservatives have been taking a two-pronged approach to skewering the Ahmad clock debacle. Not only is the treatment of Ahmed being defended while accusers of Islamophobia are extricated, but President Obama is being crucified for inviting Ahmed to the White House. Viral videos and Facebook posts decry a lack of interest on the president’s behalf in meeting with soldiers or their families while criticizing that the man is somehow able to meet with a Muslim teen who played the race card. This, some have said, is the ultimate disservice to our troops.
The problem with that narrative is that it’s not true. A quick Google search provides countless examples of Pres. Obama meeting with troops or their families. Just last week he met with the three Americans credited with thwarting a would-be mass shooter on a train in France, two of whom are service members. Below you’ll find links to 12 different visits between the president and U.S. service members or their families than can be found in less than 30 seconds online.
Further, while Republican presidents and congressmen have consistently cut benefits to active-duty troops and veterans, Pres. Obama has a better record for protecting our troops’ interests than any recent president or congress. Not only has he proposed new legislation to increase benefits, but he’s also blocked attempts (usually lead by the GOP) to slash benefits. He still has further expansions of benefits in the works.
In a time when nearly every news event polarizes the nation and accusations fly across social media and news media, it’s vital to look at the facts of a situation and to judge competing narratives for their relative wholeness (and factualness). Upon further investigation, it’s obvious that Ahmed was a victim of Islamophobia and that charges of Pres. Obama’s anti-military bias aren’t just untrue, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, those with an agenda have no interest in these facts and the propaganda machines churn away.