Handcuffs to White House: Ahmed Mohamed’s change of fortune after clock arrest

Posted at 11:54 AM, Sep 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 11:54:40-04

When Ahmed Mohamed went to his high school in Irving, Texas, Monday, September 14, 2015, he was so excited, he wanted to show his teacher the digital clock he’d made from a pencil case. But the 14-year-old’s day ended not with praise, but punishment, after the school called police and he was arrested.

(CNN) — Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed has a lot of options to think about.

The 14-year-old, who loves science and inventing, was arrested Monday for what police initially said was a bomb hoax. Turns out, a teacher thought that the clock Ahmed made out of a pencil case looked like a bomb.

A photo of him being led from MacArthur High School in handcuffs went viral on social media and spurred outrage, with many saying the teen had been profiled and punished because he is Muslim. Scientists, celebrities, political leaders and regular people tweeted their encouragement to Ahmed.

The Twitter hashtag #Istandwithahmed was trending globally.

Ahmed was suspended from school for three days, even though police in Irving, Texas, said Wednesday they would not pursue charges against him. He was due to go back to school Thursday, but he said the night before he wasn’t sure what he would do.

In any case, his terrible experience has resulted in some incredible opportunities.

President Barack Obama invited him to the White House next month for an annual Astronomy Night.

“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.”

Facebook was flooded with messages of support for Ahmed and ire for his school, and its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, praised the teen in a post.

“Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest. The future belongs to people like Ahmed,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Ahmed, if you ever want to come by Facebook, I’d love to meet you. Keep building.”

Twitter offered Ahmed an internship.

Wednesday night, Ahmed explained why he brought his invention to school.

“I built the clock to impress my teacher, but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her. So, it was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it,” the teen told reporters at a news conference in front of his home.

Vying for attention

Ahmed also appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday.

Being arrested, he told GMA, “felt really weird ’cause I never thought I’d get arrested.” He also said police told him he wasn’t allowed to call his parents.

“I was scared at the moment, but now I feel really happy. I’m getting all this support from all over the world,” Ahmed said.

“And the support isn’t just for me but for everyone who has been through this. I will fight for you if you can’t stand up for yourself.”

He said he was most excited to hear from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which tweeted encouragement to him.

“I dream of going there,” he said.

He said he was also very happy to get an invitation to the White House. “I hope to see him soon,” Ahmed said of Obama.

Photo provided by the Irvine, Texas, Police Department of the digital clock that 14-year-old Ahmed Mohammed made from a pencil case.

And he said this experience won’t discourage him from creating.

“This isn’t my first invention and it won’t be my last invention,” he said.

Ahmed says he’s definitely going to the White House and was grateful to everyone who helped make it happen.

“Thank you to all my supporters on Twitter, Facebook, all social media,” he told reporters at a press conference.

Whether the clock goes with him depends on Irving police.

Late Wednesday, they were still holding the device as evidence.

Asked what his plans for the future are, he answered, “That clock was part of my future.”

Family upset

Ahmed’s family isn’t happy with how the whole situation was handled.

His father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated to the United States from Sudan, said the school didn’t contact him right away to tell him his son had been arrested. Instead, he first learned of what happened when police called him.

Mohamed said he rushed to the station and saw his son “surrounded by five police and he was handcuffed.”

Officials defend action

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne defended the school district and police.

“I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat,” she said in a statement. They all followed procedures, she said.

Van Duyne has had controversial interactions with Irving’s Muslim community, most notably when she supported a resolution that would prohibit “foreign law,” including Islamic or sharia law, CNN affiliate KTVT reported.

A spokeswoman for the Irving Independent School District said that the way the teen’s experience has been described in media reports is “unbalanced.”

She declined to explain why, citing the need to protect a student’s privacy, but said more details would be revealed if the family gives written permission to discuss the incident.