The father of Ahmed Mohamed, the Muslim teenager arrested in Texas last year when he brought a homemade clock to school, has launched a defamation lawsuit against several conservative media figures and organisations.
Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed filed the suit last week in Dallas County on behalf of his son, whose detention and questioning last September made international headlines amid accusations of Islamophobia. He was suspended from school for three days, though police decided not to charge him with making a fake bomb.
Among the eight defendants listed in the lawsuit are the political commentator Glenn Beck; his media network, the Blaze; Fox Television Stations; and Beth Van Duyne, mayor of Irving, the Dallas suburb where Ahmed went to school.
The suit claims that the broadcasts in question wrongly floated the idea that the boy deliberately brought a “hoax bomb” to school as a PR stunt, when in reality he simply tried to build an alarm clock to impress a teacher.
Van Duyne is accused of stating that Ahmed was “not forthcoming with information” and that he brought a “hoax bomb” to school. According to the suit, Beck theorised that the episode might be some sort of plot that “could be as simple as the progressives trying to turn Texas blue”. A broadcast on Fox News last October is described as containing libelous statements.
Requests for comment from Beck, Fox Television Stations and the city of Irving were not immediately returned.
The suit seeks damages if retractions and corrections are not forthcoming. It claims: “The public has been misled into believing that the Mohameds are terrorists who plotted to have the Irving police wrongfully arrest a teenage boy for bringing an alarm clock to school. These broadcasts irresponsibly fan the flames of fear and anger towards Muslims and immigrants. Each of these Defendants should be required to retract their falsehoods and broadcast the truth”.
There is a recent history of tension between the Muslim community and rightwing groups in Irving and elsewhere in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The 14-year-old met President Barack Obama last October after he tweeted: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.— President Obama (@POTUS) September 16, 2015
The family then moved to Qatar after he was offered a scholarship, also citing safety concerns. They asked Irving and its school district for $15m in damages last November and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last month alleging discrimination.
“For the safety of my family, I have to go back to Qatar, because right now it’s not very safe for my family or for anyone who’s a minority,” Ahmed said at a news conference in Texas in August. “I can’t walk out of the house without being covered up because I might get shot, because that happens here.”
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