Barack Obama goes to great lengths to dispel misconceptions that he is a Muslim.
"Let's make clear what the facts are: I am a Christian. I have been sworn in with a Bible. I pledge allegiance [to the American flag] and lead the pledge of allegiance sometimes in the United States Senate when I'm presiding," he told reporters earlier this year.
Obama's campaign even prevented Muslim women — who were wearing head scarves — from appearing behind the presidential candidate in a photo op, a move for which the campaign later apologized. And recently, Obama's campaign's outreach coordinator to the Muslim community recently resigned after reports tying him to a controversial religious leader.
Given the Obama campaign's sensitivities, some critics question why Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of The Islamic Society of North America or ISNA is being given a prominent role at the Democratic National Convention's "interfaith gathering," which kicks off the Denver convention on Sunday.
The ISNA is suspected of having ties to radical terrorism organizations worldwide and was identified in the recent Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial by the government as an "unindicted co-conspirator." During the Holy Land case, which ended in a mistrial, and is scheduled for a new trial this fall, the government said documents show ISNA is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical organization that calls on Muslim organizations in America to dedicate themselves to "a kind of grand Jihad" against the West.
Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, said it is a concern that ISNA is associated with a group bent of the West's destruction. "The [Muslim] Brotherhood is an instrument of what I call "soft jihad," as opposed to the "hard jihad" of terror. It's another way of accomplishing the common purpose of the Islamist, which is our destruction."
Critics point to ISNA's magazine and articles that quote individuals like Sayyid Qutb, who according to the 9/11 Commission Report was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood whose writings inspired Usama bin Laden. The magazine wrote that "Bin Laden shared Qutb's stark view, permitting him and his followers to rationalize — even unprovoked — mass murder as a righteous defense of an embattled faith."
Critics add that the group, taking advantage of attempts to by the government to build bridges with the Muslim communitity after 9/11, has a disturbing relationship with Bush Administration. ISNA has worked with the White House's Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives on its Compassion Forum. And in June Karen Hughes, the former Bush Administration's official tasked with improving relations with the Muslim Community, was honored by ISNA for her work.
When asked by FOX News why ISNA's president was chosen to be a featured speaker at the interfaith event, given the issues raised by critics, the Democratic National Convention Committee in Denver dismissed the attacks against Mattson as false, saying that she is "an ambassador for Islam who preaches tolerance."
In a written statement the DNCC said: "She is part of an organization that has met with leaders like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and key Bush Administration adviser Karen Hughes. Under her tenure, ISNA has worked to build understanding and has been supported by the National Council of Churches and the Union for Reform Judaism which hosted Mattson at its biennial conference last year."
ISNA denied the group is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to recent court filings, ISNA is asking the Justice Department to remove its name from the list of unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land foundation trial.
ISNA contends that for years the group has worked to support interfaith dialogue with other mainstream religious organizations and rejects all form of terrorism. "Our goal is to ensure freedom, eradicate prejudice, and create a society in which Muslims live peacefully and prosper alongside other Americans," said ISNA.