It was little more than two months ago that Ahmed Mohamed — a ninth grader now known as the Muslim “clock kid” — was arrested for bringing what some thought looked like a homemade bomb, but was actually a homemade clock, to his high school in Irving, Tex.
Now, Mohamed is gone — swept off to Qatar and meetings with Sudanese president and wanted war criminal Omar Hassan al-Bashir. However, anti-Muslim protests in his hometown, in suburban Dallas, linger. This past weekend, about a dozen members of a group calling itself the Bureau of American Islamic Relations protested in front of the Islamic Center of Irving, a local mosque. They had guns. They had a flag. They had a Ted Cruz sign and one that read “Stop the Islamization of America.”
“It’s a boiling pot,” one man who declined to give his name to Fox 4 news said. “The kettle … the top on this kettle is on really really tight and it is going to blow.”
The kettle, however, did not.
“Two men on the sidewalk mocked the song [of Arabic music blasting from a car that had just left the mosque], distorting foreign lyrics into gibberish as the car sped away,” Avi Selk of the Dallas Morning News wrote of the protest. “Then they huddled in the cold around their cigarettes, guns and flags, waiting for another passer-by to pay attention. It was a strange protest, held at a strange time in a suburb strangely relevant to America’s brand of anti-Islamic politics.”
Indeed, even before the curious case of “the clock kid” sparked outrage on the right — and on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page — over whether Mohamed’s clock was really a clock or a way to provoke his teachers, Irving had seen its share of anti-Muslim rhetoric. Earlier this year, rumors circulated that the Islamic Center was operating a sharia court.
“While I am working to better understand how this ‘court’ will function and whom will be subject to its decisions,” Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne wrote on her Facebook page, “please know that if it is determined that there are violations of basic rights occurring, I will not stand idle and will fight with every fiber of my being against this action.”
The sharia court, however, turned out not to be a court, but an organization providing mediation and nonbinding arbitration using Islamic principles — and not in Irving, but in Dallas proper, leading to a tsk-tsking from the Dallas Morning News.
“Van Duyne could spend her time more productively by reaching out the local Muslim community instead of catering to tea party voters who feed on fear about Islam and relish shots at the press,” the Morning News wrote. “Van Duyne has the intelligence and charisma to be a powerful leader in this region. Unfortunately, she’s not using her abilities to their best end.”
Still, Bureau of American Islamic Relations leader David Wright cited Van Duyne’s mythical court, as well as the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the need to keep Syrian refugees out of the United States, as a motivation for the protest.
“We tried to talk to the mosque before we did this, but they wouldn’t return our messages,” David Wright said. “So here we are.”
“I may look like their version of a racist, but I’m not,” the man who declined to give his name to Fox 4 news said. “… I just don’t want them pushing their beliefs down my throat.”
The mosque declined comment to Fox 4, but a local chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations provided one.
“Americans are entitled to express their opinions for and against all matters of society,” the group wrote. “However we urge demonstrators to not allow hate and fear to guide their actions but rather balanced knowledge and an open heart.”
A local resident shook the hands of demonstrators he disagreed with.
“They have a right to be wrong,” Anthony Bond said. “… [Muslims at the mosque] are my friends. They’ve been an asset to Irving. They pose no threat. It’s the same kind of hate. Hate needs to stop.”
Meanwhile, anti-anti-Muslim protesters had co-opted a Facebook page to poke fun at BAIR.
“Does owning a rifle make up for your lack of self-esteem?” a post read. “Do you have a bug out bag full of ammunition and survival gear in the event of Muslim’s taking over this country but are actually too out of shape to run a quarter mile without passing out?”