Anne Williams
Anne Williams
Anne is a writer, editor and strategist for digital media. She was a founding editor at About.com, and has developed content for News Corporation, Random House, Village Voice, and several publishing and interactive gaming start-ups. She has written for UrbanBaby, Sparknotes, and Village Voice Media. Anne lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband and two children.

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Debatables

Ahmed Mohamed's arrest: Is fear outweighing our freedom of expression?

On Monday, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, a student in Irving, Texas was arrested by police for bringing a digital clock that he made to school, after one of his teachers suspected it to be a "hoax bomb." 

Mohamed, a ninth-grade student at MacArthur High School, said that his hobby is inventing and he brought his clock to school in hopes of demonstrating his skills to his teachers. Instead, he was handcuffed by cops, questioned without his parents, and taken to juvenile detention. 


The incident has created a social media uproar— the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed started trending on Twitter and has resulted in more than 100,000 tweets. Even President Obama joined in on the conversation, tweeting "We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great." 

It's hard to understand why the adults in charge didn't do a little more due diligence before they took him out in handcuffs (his English teacher decided it was a bomb, but his engineering teacher could have vouched for the device), and why they interrogated him without his parents. It's also hard not to wonder if their reaction would have been the same if his last name weren't Mohamed. Reasonable fears and an abundance of caution are admirable, but not at the expense of common sense. We live in a free country and that freedom requires vigilance, but it also requires that we master our most irrational fears, and respect the freedom of others, including Ahmed Mohamed.

Ahmed's story has a happy ending; charges were dropped and he's a social media star with invites to visit Facebook and MIT, so the trauma of today's arrest will probably be short lived. But not everyone caught up in a misunderstanding like this one fares so well in the end. 

What do you think? Is fear getting the best of us? Or should authorities always assume the worst, no matter what? 

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