Ingrid Mattson, a 45-year-old Canadian-born convert to Islam, caused an uproar in the blogosphere after she was invited by the Democratic party to a gathering of religious leaders in Denver on the eve of the convention. Other notable participants included Bishop Charles E. Blake, (Church of God In Christ) and Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb (Orthodox Union).
The commotion stemmed from the fact that Mattson is the president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an organization with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was labeled last year by the U.S. Justice Department as an un-indicted co-conspirator in U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas terrorism financing case.
Mattson's overt affiliation with ISNA created only a fleeting political liability in Denver, but she may pose a longer-term danger to the wider American public.
Mattson is a professor at the Hartford Seminary, where she teaches Islamic law and Islamic history. Through this position of authority, Mattson has obfuscated the threat of radical Islam, numbing her students and the American public to a dangerous ideology.
For example, it is no secret that Wahhabism is a radical Islamist ideology responsible for a great deal of the anti-Western violence produced in the Muslim world. Yet, in a CNN chatroom interview in 2001, Mattson stated that Wahhabism is "a reform movement" that "really was analogous to the European protestant reformation." Inaccurately, she claimed that "the Saudi scholars who are Wahhabi have denounced terrorism," despite the fact that many continue to teach its virtues.
Islamic-terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S. carried out al-Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001. Last year, the director of national intelligence explicitly expressed "worry that there are sleeper cells in the U.S.," and cited specific concerns about increased al-Qaeda capabilities on American soil. Yet, only two months earlier, Mattson insistently told the Baltimore Sun that the supposition that terrorist sleeper cells exist in this country, "is not true. There aren't any sleeper cells."
Despite the fact that radical Muslims have been responsible for the lion's share of terrorist attacks against Western interests for decades, Mattson questions why the label "Islamic" is included when President George W. Bush and other leaders talk about terrorism.
Unfortunately for her students, Mattson's teachings appear to be similarly problematic.
Whereas policy analysts and intelligence programs focus on the writings of Muslim fundamentalist thinkers, such as Sayyid Qutb and Abul ‘Ala Mawdudi, to learn the dangers of radical Islam, Mattson teaches their writings as examples of "ways in which the Quran functions as sacred scripture in Muslim history and contemporary life." By way of background, Qutb's writings inspired many of today's radical Islamist groups, including al Qaeda, while Mawdudi inspired other Islamist leaders, such as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Mattson's apologia may seem egregious, but it is fairly standard stuff in her profession. Americans have become increasingly aware of the way in which professors of Middle Eastern studies whitewash the dangers of radical Islam.
What might be more surprising is the extent to which Mattson publicly and proudly associates with a notoriously Islamist cause like ISNA. This makes it more difficult for her to portray her Islamist leanings as "scholarship."
As Mattson wrote in a book she published in 2002, "People of faith have a certain kind of solidarity with others of their faith community that transcends the basic rights and duties of citizenship." In other words, Mattson implies that the Muslim identity transcends the American identity.
In the same book, she also questions the very character of America. "There is no guarantee," she writes, "that Americans will rise to the challenge of defining themselves as an ethical nation."
It is this cynical approach to America, along with her Islamist ideals and associations, that made Mattson a political liability in Denver.
Sadly, she is just one example of the way in which Islamism has penetrated American universities, and even U.S. politics.