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High Schooler Ahmed Arrested for a Clock

DALLAS (CN) - A Texas high school freshman was handcuffed, arrested and suspended Monday for bringing a homemade clock to school in what critics call Islamophobia and racism run amok.

Ahmed Mohamed, 14, of Irving, told The Dallas Morning News he loved robotics club in middle school and was looking for a "similar niche" in his first few weeks at MacArthur High School.

Mohamed said he threw together a clock inside of a pencil case in 20 minutes Sunday evening to take to school the next day. The clock consisted of a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display inside a pencil case, with a tiger hologram on the front.

When he showed the gadget to his unidentified engineering teacher first thing Monday, he was told not to show any other teachers - hardly the reaction he was hoping for.

Later in English class, an unidentified teacher complained about the clock's alarm beeping in the middle of a lesson and she kept the clock after Mohamed showed it to her.

"She was like, it looks like a bomb," he told the newspaper. "I told her, 'It doesn't look like a bomb to me.'"

Mohamed, a thin, studious looking fellow with glasses, says he was taken to a room with four police officers later in the day. He claims an unidentified officer leaned back in his chair and said: "Yup. That's who I thought it was."

The principal threatened to expel him if he did not make a written statement, Mohamed says.

"They were like, 'So you tried to make a bomb?'" he said. "I told them no, I was trying to make a clock. He said, 'It looks like a movie bomb to me.'"

Police spokesman James McLellan said the device "could reasonably be mistaken as a device" if it were left in a bathroom or under a car. He said Mohamed gave "no broader explanation" for the device but kept saying it's a clock.

"It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car," McLellan said. "The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?"

Mohamed's father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, believes his son was mistreated.

"He just wants to invent good things for mankind," the father said. "But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated."

The family immigrated to the United States from Sudan. The father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, a Sufi imam, made national headlines for debating Florida pastor Terry Jones in 2011 after Jones burned a Quran.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it is investigating. The council's North Texas chapter director, Alia Salem, told the Morning News she has spoken with lawyers about the "pretty egregious" arrest.

"This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving's government entities are operating in the current climate," she said.

Worldwide condemnation of the arrest was swift, with the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed trending Tuesday on Twitter.

A photograph of a bewildered Mohamed wearing a NASA T-shirt while being led away by police in handcuffs has been widely retweeted.

President Barack Obama took to Twitter this morning as well, inviting Mohamed to Washington.

"Cool clock, Ahmed," Obama tweeted. "Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great."

Irving, a suburb of Dallas, is no stranger to accusations of Islamophobia. Its City Council faced heavy criticism in March for voting 5-4 in support of a bill before the Legislature that said Sharia law could not be applied in family matters.

House Bill 562, filed by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, sought to invalidate rulings by any "court, arbitrator, or administrative adjudicator" in marriage, divorce or parent-child matters that are based on foreign law "if the application of that law would violate a fundamental right" under the U.S. Constitution or Texas Constitution.

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne defended the resolution at the time, saying the bill "does not mention at all Muslims, Sharia law, Islam, even religion." The resolution passed one month after Van Duyne told conservative commentator Glenn Beck of her opposition to a new Sharia law tribunal in the city. She disputed rumors that the city "somehow condoned, approved or enacted the implementation" of the tribunal in Irving, according to a letter posted on Beck's Facebook profile.

Van Duyne said the United States "cannot be so overly sensitive in defending other cultures that we stop protecting our own."

She added: "Texas Supreme Court precedent does not allow the application of foreign law that violates public policy, statutory, or federal laws. However, now that this issue has emerged in our community, I am working with our state representatives on legislation to clarify and strengthen existing prohibitions on the application of foreign law in violation of constitutional or statutory rights."

The Texas Education Agency in 2009 rated Mohamed's school, MacArthur High, "academically acceptable."

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