When I first arrived in America, I would ask every extremist and fundamentalist Muslim I met: "How has your life been since you came to the United States?"
It was clear that their living standards were much better than back home. I knew well the lands they had come from, their economic standards and restrictions, their lifestyle, the social, and the religious, economic and political landscapes of the region.
They were surely about to say how much their lives had improved, and how grateful they were to be in a new, less restricted environment. Instead, they expressed anger and even hatred of their new country and its culture. What they could not put into words, was clearly written across their faces: revulsion and disgust.
It seemed they were comfortable disclosing their true feelings in Farsi or Arabic about the US, Americans, the West, Christians, and Jews. As we had all come from, grown up in, and worked in the same region, many of them mistakenly assumed that we both shared the same hate-filled views. Once they discovered that was not the situation, some even tried to reshape my views: as I was new to the country, I probably did not yet understand.
Everything in this country, they patiently explained, was kufr: blasphemy, filthy, infidel. They went on harshly to criticize American culture and the Western lifestyle. Their list of complaints was unending: how men and women dress, how people interact, how people work and celebrate life, go to parties, date, marry, dance, drink -- there did not seem one aspect of American life that did not enrage them.
A wealthy Islamist imam, who explained that he was poor in his prior country and had accumulated all of his wealth after coming to the US by expanding existing mosques and attracting people and donations, ironically bashed the US for not allowing Islamist imams to grow financially. He could not explain why. It was just another hypocritical tool, used as an excuse to hate America and brainwash followers to hate America. Despite the fact that he had gone from poverty to riches beyond anything he could have dreamed, he was quite angry at his new country.
More intriguingly, this attitude was apparent among both academics and non-academics. No matter what the Islamists' current status or situation, they would lash out at the US, the West and Americans. Meanwhile, American taxpayers were providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to them in scholarships, free accommodation, and often even a monthly stipend. By comparison, many American students struggle to pay their own tuition and housing; many graduate with debt.
When asked what they thought of the free education that they were receiving at the best universities in the world, which ensured their success in life, a sense of entitlement would appear. Some believed that the US was simply supposed to do these favors for them for free of charge. Others argued that this was an opportunity to take advantage of America, and should be done for the sake of furthering Islamic political and religious views.
When asked for details about their home country from where they immigrated or fled, surprisingly, they had nothing bad to say. Everything in their home country was heaven-like. They beautified and worshiped their authoritarian and Islamist regimes.
Finally, I asked the question that burned in my mind: Why, if they hated the US so much, did they not they go back to their beloved home country? What if all their expenses were covered, such as plane tickets to their native land?
Instead of the earlier lengthy explanations, the general response was evasive. Some even remained perfectly silent or refused to answer.
The question itself had unmasked me. In their eyes, just by asking this question, I had revealed myself as an outsider. In that moment, I joined the crowd of multitudes of human beings that they hate and refuse to tolerate.
Even if one puts their Islamist agenda aside, their extreme ungratefulness seemed jolting. The United States had given them a home, a green card, citizenship, free scholarships, salaries, unlimited opportunities, and freedoms they had never known: freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly.
Here they were enjoying equality under the law, security, and so many other benefits that would be considered extreme luxuries or unheard of in their previous homelands -- everything they had been deprived of in their earlier home. No other country would have provided them with half of this. So why did they demonstrate and ratchet up anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic sentiments, while at the same time rejecting the idea of returning to their original country? How could they enjoy all of these benefits America offered them, and yet, at the same time, yearn for its destruction? There do not seem to be such anti-American sentiments expressed by other immigrants from non-Islamist countries, or from Christians or Jews who fled from Islamist states in the same region.
(Image sources: Welcome to USA sign - Craig Nagy/Wikimedia Commons; Islamist protester - Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
It is now time to reconsider whom we are freely providing money and resources to -- including those Islamists who have already been in the United States for generations. It is the time to reconsider whom we are allowing to enter this country, and providing with free shelter, scholarships, cash, freedom of speech, and all the rights that come with the constitution. The US has been funding the lives of these extremists as they endanger our country and the lives of all Americans, and spread hatred towards America, Christianity, Judaism and the West.
Is this how American taxpayers want their hard-earned contributions to be used?
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is the author of "Peaceful Reformation in Iran's Islam". He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu.