Posted by Nadia Aziz on September 17, 2015 in Blog

Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States.jpgOn September 17th, 1787, thirty-nine delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania signed the United States Constitution.

Today, 228 years later, we continue to celebrate the signing of the living, breathing document that defines our government, expounds our rights and binds us together as Americans.

Every year, on September 17th, the federal government observes Constitution Day. National organizations use Constitution Day as an opportunity to teach students across the country about their constitutional rights.

The importance of these lessons was even more striking this week when a 14-year old American Muslim student in Irving, Texas was arrested after bringing a homemade clock to school. Ahmed Mohamed was told that his invention looked like a bomb, even after Ahmed explained it was a clock. The teacher kept the clock. Ahmed was later pulled out of class by the principal and a police officer. He was interrogated by five police officers. They asked him questions about “trying to make a bomb” and searched his belongings. The principal threatened to expel Ahmed if he didn’t provide a written statement.

Ahmed was later escorted out of the school in handcuffs. The police took his fingerprints, and sent him to a juvenile detention center where is parents picked him up. He was suspended for three days.

An example of blatant anti-Muslim bigotry, Ahmed’s story made headlines, became a trending topic on Twitter, and captured the attention of disheartened citizens across the country.

The local police have since acknowledged that Ahmed did not try to build a bomb, or perpetrate a bomb hoax, but they were “unsatisfied with this explanation.” A police spokesman was quoted as saying, “He would simply only tell us that it was a clock…He didn’t offer an explanation as to what it was for, why he created this device, why he brought it to school.”

This scenario raises questions about Ahmed’s constitutional rights. First, when Ahmed was being asked questions in a room of five police officers without his parents present, did he feel like he could leave? Did the officers read Ahmed his rights and let him know that he had the right to remain silent? Did they read him his rights as he was handcuffed and escorted out of the school?

The police spokesman raised an important question – Why didn’t Ahmed offer an explanation as to what the clock was for.  The reason may be because it was simply a clock. But the point is that he didn’t have to. 

Today, the Constitution in its seven articles and 27 amendments, defines our government, sets forth our rights and binds us together as Americans. It provides for the equal protection of laws. It also acknowledges that the United States is not a perfect union. 

This week provided just one example of why we must continue to strive for a more perfect union. Government programs and policies, like NSEERS, the Patriot Act, and CVE Programs that unjustly discriminate against Arab Americans and American Muslims have created a culture of systematic suspicion that trickles down to 9th grade classrooms and beyond. 

Today, on the 228th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States, celebrate Constitution Day by ensuring your children know their rights.

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