Ahmed & the Clock

Students share their thoughts and feelings about the experience of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old boy, a Muslim, who was arrested when school staff feared that the clock he had constructed and brought to school was a bomb.  Students read and discuss tweets from #IStandwithAhmed and view a brief video about stereotypes and bias against Muslims.   


Ask students to turn to a partner and talk about something they're good at.   How does it make them feel to do this thing well?

Ask students to share their feelings about the things they are good at with the larger group.  Create a word web by writing "What I'm good at" at the center of the board or chart paper, circling it, and writing the various feelings words radiating out from the center in one color.  Draw lines from the feelings words to the center circle to create the web. 

Check Agenda and Objectives


Muslim Teen Arrested:  Feelings Web

In small groups invite students to first read the tweets in HANDOUT 1, then discuss:

  • What do they think these tweets are about?
  • What story in the news are they referring to?
  • How do the people in the tweets feel?
  • How do you feel about what happened?

Elicit and explain that on September 14, 2015, Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Muslim boy from Irving, Texas, made a clock using a circuit board and a digital display that he put in a metal case. Ahmed has always loved building things and was part of the robotics club in middle school, where he won awards for his inventions. 

He brought the clock to school in the hope of finding like-minded people during his first few weeks of high school.  Instead, his engineering teacher told him to put his invention away and advised him not to show it to anyone else. Then his English teacher confiscated the clock after it beeped in class. The teacher took the clock for a bomb and alerted the school's administration, who sprang into action and called the police. 

After being questioned at the school about the device, Ahmed was taken in handcuffs to a juvenile detention center, where he was fingerprinted and interrogated further by five police officers about what some officials called a hoax bomb.  Throughout it all Ahmed insisted the device was a clock. 

After this incident, Ahmed's older sisters created a Twitter hashtag called #IStandWithAhmed.  There has been an outpouring of support for Ahmed on Twitter ever since.  Many of the quotes we read in the handout were from this hashtag.



Feelings Web continued

Having elicited what happened in Irving, Texas, ask students their thoughts and feelings about what happened. Ask:

How do you think Ahmed Mohamed felt when he was building the clock and first brought it into school in the morning? 

Add these feelings words to the chart from before, using the same color. 

Then ask students how they think Ahmed felt when the teacher first told him to hide it and not show anyone. 

What about when the other teacher confiscated it?   

And then when he was questioned at school ... put into handcuffs ... and taken to the juvenile detention center? 

Chart the feelings words in a different color around the words already charted on the board. 

Now ask students to look at the feelings web. 

  • What do they notice about the web?  
  • Any similarities, differences, surprises?
  • Has anyone in this class ever been made to feel bad about something they were good at or something they were proud of?  What was that like?


Wider issues

Tell students that it's important to support people, young and old, who have been the target of discrimination and injustice.  We also need to consider how these instances of discrimination relate to wider issues we need to address as a society. Ask students to read the tweets included in HANDOUT 2.

Then ask students to discuss the following:

  • What are your thoughts and feelings about these tweets?
  • Can anyone relate to the tweets in any way?
  • Has anyone ever heard the term Islamophobia?  What does it mean?

Defining Islamophobia

Take the word apart if needed: Islam + phobia. 

What is Islam? According to Merriam Webster, Islam is:

"the religion which teaches that there is only one God and that Muhammad is God's prophet: the religion of Muslims."  

What is a phobia?  According to Merriam Webster, a phobia is:

"an extremely strong dislike or fear of someone or something:  an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation."

Based on these definitions, ask students to try to come up with a definition of Islamophobia as you keep in mind some of the definitions below:

According to CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) Islamophobia is closed-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. An Islamophobe is an individual who holds a closed-minded view of Islam and promotes prejudice against or hatred of Muslims.

According to Oxforddictionaries.com, Islamophobia is "dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force."

Islamophobia, then, is an attitude or belief about Islam and Muslims. Attitudes and beliefs often determine our actions. 

Ask students to think about how some teachers, administrators, and police behaved in the case of Ahmed Mohamed.  Ask:

  • What do you think might have been the underlying beliefs and attitudes of the teachers, administrators and police in this incident?
  • Do you think Islamophobia was displayed in this case? Why or why not? 
  • Can you identify discriminatory actions in this case? If so, what are they?
  • Can you relate this to any other beliefs and attitudes that people have about other groups in our society?  Who are the groups?  What are the negative beliefs and attitudes called?  (Examples could include people of color and racism, women and sexism, Jews and anti-Semitism, gays and homophobia, young people and ageism, etc.)

Invite students to raise their hand if they've ever been at the receiving end of discriminatory actions.  

Ask students to turn to a partner to talk about the experience - or talk about a time in their lives when they've witnessed a discriminatory action. 

Ask some volunteers to share out their experience.  What do students think were the assumptions and/or beliefs that the people who discriminated had in these situations?   How do such assumptions and/or beliefs come into being? 


I'm Muslim, But I'm Not ...

Invite students to watch this 2-minute video clip, which aims to challenge stereotypes and biases against Muslims:


Then ask students to discuss some or all of the following questions:

  • What are your thoughts and feelings about this clip?
  • How does this relate to what happened to Ahmed Mohamed?
  • What did you notice about the people in this clip?
  • What stood out for you about this clip?
  • Did anything in the clip surprise you? 
  • What did you learn from this clip?
  • How do you think this clip relates to what we just talked about regarding Islamophobia?

Alternatively, have students view and discuss this 1-minute clip of Ahmed Mohamed speaking to reporters.


Ask students: 

  • What are your thoughts and feelings about this clip?
  • What stood out for you about this clip?
  • What surprised you about this clip? 
  • How do you think Ahmed Mohamed is feeling in this clip?



I Stand With Ahmed and Then Some

Have students work with a partner or small groups to create a tweet in which they either stand up for Ahmed Mohamed or stand up against Islamophobia. Invite students to read out their tweets.

After students read their tweets, ask the rest of the class to share how listening to these tweets made them feel. Create a new feelings web, or add to the one you created earlier, using another color. 



Ask a student to read the following quote from the Guardian out loud:

"It's worth it, once you realize what you're fighting for," says Ahmed Mohamed. And what is he fighting for? He looks around the room, and like any American 14-year-old grappling with issues beyond his control, he answered with the rising inflection of a question. "Not just for Muslims?" he said. "But for anybody who has been through this?"

Invite students to take a deep breath and think about one thing they learned today.  Ask a few volunteers to share.