Resentment and Paranoia in the United States

       The recent arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year old Muslim high school student, for bringing a reassembled clock to school is a tragedy. But it is not exceptional. The United States has a long history of fanaticism when it comes to religious minorities, and Mohamed’s arrest is not an uncommon event.

        After September 11, 2001, American Muslims have had to endure an incredible amount of persecution and discrimination. The retributive effects of 9/11 were felt immediately by the Muslim community. According to the Los Angeles Times, hate crimes towards Muslims increased by 1,600 percent between 2000 and 2001.

       The anti-Islamic belief in America continues, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes that, between 2005 and 2012, there have been 98 separate instances of anti-mosque activities. These range from attempts to block landowners from selling to Islamic groups to an incident in Dearborn, Mississippi, where police foiled a man’s plans to detonate a van full of explosives in front of the Islamic Center of America, one of the country’s largest mosques.

       Not all forms of oppression against Muslims come from non-state actors, however. Islamophobia has wreaked havoc on the laws of the United States.

        A massive piece of post-Sep. 11 legislation was the Patriot Act, which strengthened the ability of law enforcement to conduct surveillance on specific groups without warrants. This has, sadly, affected Muslim Americans far more than any other group.

        “Undercover city officers kept a close eye on Muslim students,” reports the New York Times, “at Yale, Columbia, Syracuse, Rugters, New York University, Brooklyn College, and public state universities.”

        The large web of surveillance created by post-Sept. 11 paranoia spreads to innocent college students, people whose only risk factor for terrorism is their religion. America’s unreasonable suspicion of Muslims has not ended, nor is it limited only to those the country believes to be terrorists.

        Both de facto and de jure discrimination against Muslim Americans indicate a cognitive problem. Since 2001, Americans have felt a strong resentment towards muslims. This is based off of nothing more than terrorists’ misinterpretations of the Islamic faith.

        This same resentment and paranoia is the reason Ahmed Mohamed went to detention earlier this month. While his invention did look more like a collection of random wires and electronics than a standard clock, the school mishandled the situation in one important way.

        They did not think it was a bomb.

        MacArthur High School officials questioned Mohamed with the alleged bomb present. They did not take any standard precautions for a bomb threat. Students remained in the school, as did Mohamed’s clock.

        By detaining a Muslim teenager for bringing a clock, which he had built from scraps around the house, to school, charging him with no crime, with the sole purpose of handcuffing, fingerprinting and photographing him, Irving police showed their true intention: to instill, in a Islamic teenager, the same sense of fear and paranoia that had been instilled in them over a decade earlier.