In Irving, Texas, fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was handcuffed and taken in for questioning. The act that drew the attention of the local police? He built a digital clock. One of his teachers felt threatened when he showed the device to her—an English teacher, I’m sorry to say—and she confiscated it and set this episode in motion. What happened in this case reminds us of a couple of challenges to our rights.
Mohamed’s father is Sudanese, and he and his family are Muslim. This fact alone, unfortunately, raises suspicions in the minds of too many. But just as guns are the subject of an enumerated right, so is the exercise of religion. It’s easy for people who participate in the majority faith of the nation to believe that religious freedom applies only to their beliefs or that as long as the majority is comfortable, there are no threats to rights.
But one beauty of our Constitution is that it protects people who are not in the majority. That means people whose religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation doesn’t align with most Americans. The essence of freedom is the belief that if you’re not harming innocents, you should be free to do as you please. That statement doesn’t have a footnote limiting it to only those who identify with at least fifty percent plus one of their fellow citizens. Since we gun owners represent a third of the U.S. population, we would do well to remember this. To put this in clear terms, being Muslim is no more inherently a threat to anyone else than being a person who owns or carries firearms.
There is another question of basic human rights involved here. Mohamed represents a group of human beings that many of my readers and I belong to, the Do-It-Yourself types. As I’ve discussed before, more and more are discovering the concept of printing a gun in the privacy of their homes or offices. They’re gaining an awareness that many owners of machine shops have had for a long time.
If we have to hold up an illustrative American, the inventor is a good choice. Just like pioneers and explorers, those among us who tinker and hack and fiddle and dream push the boundaries of human achievement. To treat a young man like a suspected terrorist instead of a bright promise for the future is to attack the best part of who we believe ourselves to be.
We’re currently celebrating the anniversary of our Constitution. We who support gun rights need to be attentive to attacks on liberty no matter whether we personally identify with the person whose rights are threatened. Recall Martin Niemoeller’s famous saying, “First they came for the Jews….” Let’s consider a contemporary writing:
First they came for the Muslims, but I was not a Muslim, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the gays, but I was not gay, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for sellers of loose cigarettes, but I was not a seller of loose cigarettes, so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
When we tolerate a threat to rights anywhere, we invite damage to the rights we value. This is why #IStandWithAhmed.