TL;DR: No one ever thought it was an actual bomb.
Since no one ever actually thought it was a bomb, the fact that the school and police took no action as if it were a bomb does not somehow "prove" it's racism and/or Islamophobia. That isn't to say one or more of the people involved had something in that vein in their minds, but their lack of treating it as a bomb doesn't demonstrate it, since numerous accounts of this story indicate the school and police never thought it was an actual bomb.
Some people thought it "looked like" a bomb, and wondered why he would bring it to school, because they don't understand why kids who like things like science and electronics do what they do.
And there are laws dealing with what are called "hoax devices". Many people have gotten into trouble for such things before. Hoax device statutes have been around for many, many years, long before 9/11.
Here is the Texas statute:
The only thing that matters in the hoax device statute is intent â" a feature that is not unique. For example, intent matters when someone is killed. Was it an accident? Was it negligence? Was it premeditated? That is the difference between someone having done nothing wrong, and murder. And it is interviews and investigations and evidence that determine intent.
Even in the original Dallas Morning News article that broke this story â" before it went viral and Ahmed got invited to the White House, JPL, MIT, got scholarships, and become the hero of Silicon Valley â" the only thing the police officials said was that they knew it wasn't a bomb, that Ahmed never claimed it was anything but a clock, and that they were trying to determine WHY he built and AND brought it to school. Once it was determined there was no intent to alarm, scare, or deceive, it was further determined there was no wrongdoing.
Steve Wozniak got in trouble for using a hoax device (with intent to scare), and was arrested and spent a night in jail. I got in trouble with authority figures â" school, police â" for things similar to what Ahmed did several times, when doing nothing wrong. Maybe a little borderline, maybe a little, "What on earth are you doing?" but not illegal. And frankly, some of those came down only to intent as well.
So this little trope misunderstands what happened. Could racism or Islamophobia been an element in anyone's mind? There is no way to know, as much as people desperately want to come to that conclusion. When people say, "What white kid would have gotten in trouble for doing nothing wrong?"
Plenty. Ignore the title, read the article (for those who haven't already):
His English teacher overreacted by getting the principal's office involved. The school overreacted by calling the police. The school bears almost all of the responsibility here â" not "post-9/11 America", racism, or police. If the police had not been called, none of this would ever have happened â" and Ahmed wouldn't be a celebrity, either.
When police are called for a situation where any of the parties involved are not in perfect agreement, and there is no controversy, even if nothing illegal occurred, I would submit that there are not many times that results in a more positive outcome. The police are there, in part, to investigate and to determine if there was any wrongdoing, which they did. I wish they would have simply handled it at the school, but what I really wish is that the school would not have called the police in the first place.