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A portrait of ingratitude

Graduating Muslim student rails against the country and system that showered her with opportunities


A portrait of ingratitude
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Some of the most grateful people in the United States are hard-working immigrants who fled their chaotic countries to seek better life in a nation that provides them resources and opportunities. For them, America is a haven that represents freedom and opportunity for all. Indeed, some of these grateful immigrants are Muslims who have fled tyrannical Islamic regimes. With gratitude, they cherish the United States and what it represents, especially as they compare her to their former dictatorial Islamic regimes.

Sadly, some immigrants are profoundly ungrateful.

Fatima Mousa Mohammed, a law student at the City University of New York (CUNY), was selected by her 2023 class to give the graduating address at the school’s May 12 commencement ceremony. Fatima is 24 years old, a devout Muslim, born in Yemen and raised in Queens. While many would have hoped to hear a speech that included some hints of genuine gratitude to her school and the U.S. system that allowed her such a marvelous opportunity to receive such a prestigious education, she presented the opposite.

She claimed that the U.S. laws are the result of “white supremacy,” and described the NYPD and U.S. military as “fascist.” In referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she didn’t mention any questionable actions by Palestinians or acknowledge that the conflict is significantly complicated and historically complex. Instead, she simply accused Israel of “indiscriminately” raining bullets and bombs on Muslim worshippers, “murdering the old, the young, attacking even funerals and graveyards.”

Additionally, she celebrated her accomplishment against what she saw as challenges by the CUNY oppressive system: “we did all of this in spite of the racism, in spite of the selective activism the self-serving interests of CUNY central, an institution that continues to fail us, that continues to train and cooperate with the fascist NYPD.” She concluded by calling for a “revolution” against America’s “oppressive” institutions, exhorting her classmates to “fuel the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism, and Zionism around the world.”

What might have formed Fatima into such an ungrateful person?

The speech was unfortunate on many levels. Fatima expressed hatred for many entities that served, reared, and blessed her: the university, the law school, the nation that allowed her ample resources and various freedoms, and the very system through which she benefitted and flourished as an immigrant. She simply bashed them all. If Fatima remained in Yemen, she would have never been able to receive such an education, or any education for that matter. Her voice would have been silenced completely, and she might have ended up being one of a tribal leader’s several wives.

What might have formed Fatima into such an ungrateful person? Why such antipathy for a system that allowed her to succeed and flourish in a much better environment than her country of origin?

Fatima’s unfortunate disposition is a product of at least two major ideologies. One is a cultural Marxism that cripples the Western academy and confuses students into dividing the world into victims and oppressors. The other is an Islamic worldview that identifies Jews and anything Jewish as an enemy that should be fought at all costs.

In her speech, instead of thanking her school and country, Fatima presented herself as a victim. Without acknowledging the remarkable privileges she gained from this very school and in this very nation, she chanted a broken melody—unfortunately common in today’s academy—as she called for a “revolution” to oppose “oppressive” institutions in America.

Israel is presented as another oppressive institution and is always wrong. . This is why Fatima can hardly see any wrong done by Palestinian Muslims. For her, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a one-sided aggression and Israel should have never existed in the first place.

In the wake of controversy, CUNY struggled with what to do with this speech. The school initially removed video of the speech from its YouTube channel, but, under pressure from pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups, the school uploaded it again. Still, CUNY’s chancellor and board identified the speech as an “expression of hate.” In response and in defending Fatima, the activist Islamist organization CAIR condemned CUNY’s board of trustees for “dishonest and dangerous” attacks against Fatima.

Fatima is hardly the best example of a grateful immigrant. Nevertheless, her message of profound ingratitude demands close attention, for it reveals much more than she intended.

A.S. Ibrahim

A.S. Ibrahim, born and raised in Egypt, holds two PhDs with an emphasis on Islam and its history. He is a professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at several schools in the United States and the Middle East, and authored A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad (Baker Academic, 2022), Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021), Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021), A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020), and The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (Peter Lang, 2018), among others.

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