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#IStandWithAhmed Is Not About Authoritarian Bureaucrats, It’s About Pretend Islamophobia

Blowing up these nonevents is a way to create the perception that discrimination against Muslims is a pervasive problem in American life. It’s not.


Earlier this month, a 13-year-old boy in Maryland faced an assault charge after authorities say he kissed a 14-year-old classmate on a dare at Pikesville Middle School near Baltimore. He’s now being charged with second degree assault as a juvenile. He has not, as of yet, been invited to the White House.

In December of 2013, a six-year-old boy near Colorado Springs was suspended from school for kissing a girl on the hand. “It was during class,” Hunter Yelton explained. “We were doing reading group, and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand. That’s what happened.” No White House invite.

In March of 2014, a high-school student  in upstate New York named Shane Kinney was suspended for wearing an National Rifle Association T-shirt emblazoned with the NRA logo and the words, “2nd Amendment Shall not be Infringed” across the back.

In August 2014, a young girl was suspended after breaking a class rule of saying “bless you” after a classmate sneezed. “She said that we’re not going to have godly speaking in her class and that’s when I said we have a constitutional right,” explained the student.

In June 2014, an eight-year-old named Asher Palmer was expelled from his special-needs Manhattan school for threatening classmates with a toy “gun’’ that he had assembled out of rolled-up white paper.

And so on. There have been hundreds of similar cases in schools across the country over the past years. Unreasonable suspensions, expulsions, and punishments are regularly meted out by administrators and overactive teachers who lack common sense and are nervous about litigious parents. But that’s not why the Ahmed Mohamed story blew up. The 14-year-old who was arrested in Irving, Texas, for bringing a homemade clock into school has become an orchestrated media event meant  to teach the proles a lesson.

Selective Concern Trolling

“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” sometime Somalian Sudanese presidential candidate, sometime Sharia activist, and sometime dad Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed told the Dallas Morning News. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”

Well, thinking that’s what happened, without a shred of evidence, is apparently enough to unleash the sanctimonious sermonizing from almost all quarters.

President Obama didn’t tweet in support of Ahmed Mohamed because some local despot overreacted. The White House press secretary didn’t invite Ahmed to attend an astronomy night because the kid is super smart.  “It’s clear that at least some of Ahmed’s teachers failed him,” Josh Earnest said. “That’s too bad, but it’s not too late for all of us to use this as a teachable moment and to search our own conscience for biases in whatever form they take.” We’re the worst.

Keith Ellison isn’t carrying a clock around in Congress to show solidarity with all those kids named Thomas or Billy who are expelled for kissing a girl’s hand or drawing a gun. And CAIR isn’t pushing this story to media outlets because Ahmed’s family is suffering. Talking Points Memo doesn’t inform us that in Irving, Texas—coincidentally the same city Ahmed’s father is an activist—Mayor Beth Van Duyn opposes creating a shadow religious court that would take on secular responsibilities because it cares about intrusive teachers.

We Need You to Believe This Is a Problem

Even in the kiddie debate on CNN, Jake Tapper didn’t ask Bobby Jindal if he thought about zero-tolerance laws or what he felt about teachers who call the police on a kid who builds a homemade clock. He asked the Louisiana governor how he would strike “a balance between vigilance and discrimination.” But where is the evidence that Ahmed was arrested because of 9/11 or because he was a Muslim? CNN does not care. Vox does not care: “Hopefully Ahmed Mohamed, and other kids like him, will pay more attention to the president’s message than to the small-minded prejudice of the Irving, Texas, high school and police department.”

So a story that perfectly illustrated the tendencies of overbearing school administrators is now transformed into a teachable moment about “Islamophobia.” And blowing up a nonevent is a way to create the perception that discrimination against Muslims is a pervasive problem in American life. In the real world, though, the preponderance of victims of jumpy teachers are not Muslims. But those cases do not provide Vox or the White House with the fodder they need for some self-satisfying lecturing.