Was it caution or Islamaphobia that resulted in arrest of Muslim teen?
The Islamic Association of North Texas and Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne don't fault school and law enforcement officials for the arrest and suspension this week of a Muslim teen who brought a homemade clock to school that was mistaken for a bomb.
"The first concern for the Irving Independent School District and the Irving Police Department is always the safety of our children and Irving citizens," Van Duyne wrote on Facebook, according to the Washington Post. “I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat. They have procedures to run when a possible threat or criminal act is discovered.”
One of the largest Muslim groups in Texas on Thursday also defended police and school officials who handcuffed and suspended 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, The Associated Press reported.
But the group blamed political leaders like Van Duyne for espousing inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and creating a "climate of fear" that would lead police and school officials to react as they did.
The Muslim community is concerned that Ahmed was interrogated without a lawyer or his parents present and was led out of school in handcuffs, AP reported.
"We're not pointing a finger at the school district or the police department," the association's Khalid Hamideh said. "Under the current climate that exists in this country, you can't really blame them because when they see something like that, they have to react."
News reports Thursday chronicled a recent history of anti-Islamic sentiment brewing in Irving, located about 15 miles from Dallas. The Washington Post story described how Van Duyne urged the City Council earlier this year to endorse a Texas bill banning enforcement of Islamic Sharia law in the state.
The local mosque denied holding Sharia courts and said the mayor's actions only stirred up unwarranted hostility toward Muslims in the community. “It fuels anti-Islamic hysteria,” Zia Sheikh, imam of the Islamic Center of Irving, told the Dallas Morning News. He and other leaders accused Van Duyne of using Muslims as "whipping boys" to further her political agenda.
The incident involving Ahmed Mohamed did ignite a social media firestorm over the emotional issues of Islam and immigration, but instead of vilifying the boy it resulted in him becoming "the Muslim hero America has been waiting for," The Daily Beast headline announced.
Among the expressions of support that poured in, Ahmed received an offer for an internship at Twitter and he was invited to tour MIT, where he aspires to go to college, according to CNN Money. The top offer came from President Obama, who invited Ahmed to the White House for Astronomy Night on Oct. 19, according to The New York Times.
Although her case didn't create quite the buzz Ahmed Mohamed's did, Kiera Wilmot knows how Ahmed felt when he was cuffed and hauled away from school. Then 16, Wilmot brought a science-fair experiment to her school in Bartow, Florida. The lid popped off her water bottle filled with a mixture of toilet-bowl cleaner and aluminum foil, Slate reported.
There were no injuries or property damage, but Wilmot, an 11th-grade honor student with no history of disciplinary problems, was hauled off the school grounds, suspended for 10 days and charged with two felonies. The charges were dropped and her record expunged in the wake of public outcry.
Slate called Wilmot — now 19 and a sophomore at Florida Polytechnic University majoring in mechanical engineering — about Mohamed’s treatment. "She said that her first reaction was anger: 'I honestly thought, ‘How could this happen to somebody else?’”