Barbara Kay: Seeing Islamophobia everywhere
Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school that teachers say looked like a bomb
Racial profiling happens. It’s a serious business and when it’s clear that a visible minority has been arrested or charged or held up for public humiliation because of his race or ethnicity, opinion writers should leap on it with all the requisite indignation, dudgeon and umbrage they can muster. The trick is in knowing whether any racial profiling actually took place, because sometimes everyone is just doing their job. It’s often a good idea to hold your fire until all the facts are in. Trouble is, when the surface facts fit a politically correct narrative, some progressive types can’t resist the bait.
Take, for example, last Saturday’s Globe and Mail column by Marsha Lederman, in which she mocked all of America — “so brash in your patriotism and clumsy in your racism” — because a 14-year-old boy from Irving, Texas, Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested and interrogated over the suspicious appearance of a bomb-like clock he’d made as an electronics project.
Lederman described the incident as flat-out “racial profiling.” There is, however, no evidence that any profiling took place. But the kid’s Muslim and Lederman, as we’ll see, sees Islamophobes everywhere. And she’s not the only one: Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, Hillary Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg, who offered Ahmed an internship at Facebook, and even U.S.President Barack Obama, who invited Ahmed to the White House, all see him as a victim.
Political correctness is not evidence, it is self-righteous genuflection to the god of cultural relativism
Yet a few problems with the “racial profiling” scenario have come to light. One is that the apparatus Ahmed claimed was his own “invention,” might not be. According to an electronics-savvy blogger who recognized Ahmed’s circuit board in photos, the clock was invented and built decades ago by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidiary. He makes a persuasive case for Ahmed having taken apart an existing clock and transplanting the innards into another casing, which happens to look a lot like the kind of briefcase bomb we’ve seen hundreds of times in the movies. So Ahmed might be a liar.
Now, in constructing his this-is-not-a-bomb clock, Ahmed may be quite benignly channelling the postmodern playfulness and irony of the artist René Magritte’s “this is not an apple” painting of an apple. But the law is not playful and has no sense of irony — an indelible life lesson Ahmed has now learned the hard way.
Speaking of the law, Lederman says Ahmed was arrested because “the clock was mistaken for a homemade bomb.” Actually, that’s not quite accurate. The teacher thought the clock looked threatening, to be sure. But the principal called the police because he thought — reasonably under the circumstances — that Ahmed’s clock might fall under the rubric of “bomb hoax,” which is a crime in Texas. A rather heavy-handed law in this case, perhaps, but that’s not the principal’s fault.
And you don’t have to be Muslim to be the victim of a heavy-handed law. A seven-year-old Maryland boy, Josh Welch, was suspended in March 2013 because he chewed a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun and pretended to shoot his classmates with it. Josh was unambiguously innocent of any wish to create tension through his actions, which is more than can be said of Ahmed at the moment. As National Review’s Charles Cooke tweeted: Ahmed’s clock “looks a lot more like a bomb than a pop tart looks like a gun.” Yet, while charges against Ahmed were quickly dropped, Josh’s parents had to hire a lawyer and spend 18 months challenging repeated refusals in order to get their son’s suspension erased. But hey, that kid’s white and Christian, so no White House invitation for him.
The other half of Lederman’s column was devoted to the niqab at citizenship ceremonies. She is just as contemptuous of those who side with the government on face-covering as she is of the allegedly racist American authorities who humiliated Ahmed. She quite openly — heavy-handedly, one might say — implied that anyone offended by the niqab is an Islamophobe (“perhaps the offended party should take a good hard look at his own face in the mirror”).
Now that’s profiling. On the basis of no evidence whatsoever — for political correctness is not evidence, it is self-righteous genuflection to the god of cultural relativism — Lederman has insulted me and, according to polls, over 70 per cent of Canadians, including many Muslims, who think the government is right on this issue. Our opinion on face-covering arises from principles regarding an open society and civic reciprocity, not from definitions of Islamophobia concocted by the Muslim Brotherhood. Phobic profiling, like racial profiling, is a serious business. Look hard before you leap.