President Barack Obama has extended a personal White House invitation to a 14-year-old Muslim boy from Texas who was detained by police after bringing in a homemade, beeping clock, which teachers had mistaken for a bomb.
No charges were filed. The story of the student, Ahmed Mohamed, spurred accusations of Islamophobia and the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed to trend on Twitter, while his older sisters set up an account for him, @istandwithahmed, which has collected more than 26,000 followers within hours.
"Cool clock, Ahmed," Obama said on Twitter on Wednesday. "Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great."
According to The Dallas Morning News, Ahmed, who likes to invent things, brought a homemade digital clock, made out of a circuit board covered by a pencil case that resembles a metal briefcase, to MacArthur High School in Irving on Monday. He showed it to his engineering teacher and kept the clock inside his bag in another class, but his clock's alarm started beeping, the newspaper said. He then showed it to its teacher, who told him "Well it looks like a bomb. Don't show it to anyone else," and took it from him, NBCFW.com reported.
"I closed it with a cable, 'cause I didn't want to lock it to make it seem like a threat, so I just used a simple cable so it won't look that much suspicious." Ahmed said in a video posted by the outlet.
The school phoned police. Ahmed was suspended for three days. Irving police said in a report on Tuesday that cited three complaints from MacArthur High School teachers against the teen on the charge of bringing a "hoax bomb" and said Ahmed said it was a clock but offered no further explanation.
Ahmed told The Dallas Morning News that he was "interrogated" by several officers, who searched through his belongings, confiscated his tablet and took his fingerprints and mug shots before releasing him, after which he was able to talk to his parents. They believe race played a factor in their son being detained, while school officials say the reaction to the clock would have been the same regardless of his religion, NBCFD.com reported.
"It made me feel like I wasn't human," Ahmed told the newspaper. "It made me feel like a criminal."
Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said in a press conference that the student was handcuffed "for his safety and for the safety of the officers," taken to a juvenile detention center and then released. He said a follow-up investigation revealed the device was a homemade experiment and there's no evidence to support the perception he intended to create alarm.
"No charges will be filed and the case is considered closed," he said.
Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also expressed their support for Ahmed.
"Assumptions and fear don't keep us safe—they hold us back," Clinton tweeted. "Ahmed, stay curious and keep building."
"Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest," Zuckerberg said on Facebook. "The future belongs to people like Ahmed. Ahmed, if you ever want to come by Facebook, I'd love to meet you. Keep building."
"Thank you for your support!" Ahmed wrote on Twitter. "I really didn't think people would care about a Muslim boy. #Thankyouforstandingwithme #IStandWithAhmed."
"We can ban together to stop this racial inequality and prevent this from happening again," he added.