Katie Pavlich: A kid, a clock, and the death of ‘See something, say something’

Last week, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was handcuffed by police at his Irving, Texas, high school after a teacher suspected a science project he brought to class — a homemade clock — could have been a bomb. The now famous “suitcase clock” didn’t look like a clock, it looked like a bomb, and therefore a teacher took action to be safe and sure. Thank God the teacher was wrong. Mistakes by school officials and law enforcement officers were made and apologies for supposedly overreacting have been issued.

While Mohamed has been cleared, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the situation that remains. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization than encourages Muslim-American communities not to cooperate with the FBI on terrorism investigations, released a statement and cried racism. People in CAIR offices around the country posted pictures holding clocks (clocks that look like clocks, not bombs) on their social media pages. President Obama personally weighed in on the issue as well, inviting Mohamed to the White House for a visit.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great,” the president tweeted last week.

Good for Ahmed Mohamed, but Obama and millions of others who are outraged are missing the bigger picture. 

It isn’t often that I agree with HBO’s Bill Maher, but today I do.

“There was a big story this week about a 14-year-old Muslim-American teenager in Texas who built a clock. He’s a science kid, and that’s great. People at the school thought it may be a bomb, perhaps because it looks exactly like a f---ing bomb,” Maher said on his show. “Look, this kid deserves an apology. No doubt about it, they were wrong, but could we have a little bit of perspective about this? Did the teacher really do the wrong thing? The teacher is supposed to see something that looks like a bomb and go, ‘Oh wait, this just might be my white privilege talking.’ ”

“Somebody look me in the eye right here and tell me over the last 30 years if so many young Muslim men — and he is young, 14, but not that it never happened before — haven’t blown a lot of s--- up around the world. And this kid deserves an apology because he wasn’t one of them,” he continued.

What about young Muslim males Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev bringing a set of pressure cookers in backpacks to a marathon? They did, and the results were devastating. What if nobody had said anything when young Muslim male Richard Colvin Reid tried to light his shoe on fire during a flight? What if Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who wore explosive underwear on an airplane, had just been ignored by fellow passengers?

In 2002, the “See something, say something” campaign was created, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The Department of Homeland Security’s website has an entire section dedicated to encouraging citizens to be aware of their surroundings and to report anything they may think isn’t quite right. 

“‘If You See Something, Say Something™’ is a national campaign that raises public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement,” the DHS website states. “We can all help keep our communities safe by paying attention to our surroundings and reporting suspicious activity to local law enforcement.” Reminders to report suspicious activity can be found in the form of videos, posters, handouts and more all over the country.

The Texas teacher who took extra caution with the clock that looked like a bomb was correct in erring on the side of vigilance. In the age of lone wolf terrorism, doing the opposite would have been irresponsible. 

“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. They follow these procedures in the sole interest of protecting our children and school personnel. To the best of my knowledge, they followed protocol for investigating whether this was an attempt to bring a Hoax Bomb to a school campus,” Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne posted to her Facebook page. “Following this investigation, Irving PD has stated no charges will be filed against the student. I hope this incident does not serve as a deterrent against our police and school personnel from maintaining the safety and security of our schools.”

“As a parent, I agree that if this happened to my child I would be very upset,” she continues. “It is my sincere desire that Irving ISD students are encouraged to use their creativity, develop innovations and explore their interests in a manner that fosters higher learning. Hopefully, we can all learn from this week’s events and the student, who has obvious gifts, will not feel at all discouraged from pursuing his talent in electronics and engineering.”

These days, if you see something and say something, you’re just a paranoid bigot.

 

Pavlich is the news editor for Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor.