Barack Obama has chosen Dr. Ingrid Mattson, a muslim scholar, to speak at his inaugural prayer service. However, Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, is the leader of a group that federal prosecutors say has ties to terrorists. Read her biography below, see photos and a video.
Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, is one of many religious leaders of all faiths scheduled to speak at Wednesday's prayer service at Washington's National Cathedral.
She has been the guest of honor at State Department dinners and has met with senior Pentagon officials during the Bush administration. She also spoke at a prayer service at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Ingrid Mattson, who was elected president of The Society in 2006, is a professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut.
Then what's the problem?
It seems in 2007, and as recently as this past July, federal prosecutors in Dallas filed court documents linking the Islamic Society of North America to Hamas, which of course the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. Where neither Ingrid Mattson nor her organization have been charged, prosecutors wrote in July that they had ‘a wide array of testimonial and documentary evidence expressly linking' the group to Hamas and other radical groups.
The Islamic Society of North America, which describes itself as ‘the nation's largest mainstream Muslim community-based organization,' is fighting to keep its name off a list of co-conspirators in the Dallas terrorism case against the Holy Land Foundation. In court documents, Ingrid Mattson's group says it does not condone terrorism. In fact, law enforcement agencies have used the organization's annual convention as part of its outreach to the Muslim community. The group has provided religious training to the FBI, according to court documents.
This was going on while officials in the law enforcement and intelligence community apparently had evidence that the Islamic Society of North America had ties to terrorists and to the Holy Land Foundation. That foundation and five of its former leaders were convicted at a retrial this past November of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas.
Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama's inaugural committee, would not discuss this case or say whether the committee knew about any ties between Mattson's organization and Hamas only saying that Mattson ‘has a stellar reputation in the faith community.'
‘We are delighted to have her as part of a program that is inclusive, welcomes people of all faiths and is consistent with the president elect's message of unity. All of these are people who preach tolerance."
Douglass made an effort to say that Mattson appeared with little controversy at an interfaith service prior to the Democratic National Convention in Denver last August. However, her appearance there came BEFORE the jury's guilty verdicts in The Holy Land Foundation case in November, basically affirming the existence of the conspiracy to aid Hamas.
So why the heck, with a cloud of suspicion over her head, was she even considered to speak at the inauguration of the president?
It's really quite sad and tarnishing on a wonderful American tradition. And we can certainly expect more and more of these smelly stories in the next four years especially with The One's own personal history of associations murky at best.
Ingrid Mattson Biography
Ingrid Mattson, Ph.D. is a Canadian Muslim revert professor and activist and the current president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
Ingrid Mattson was born and raised in Ontario, Canada and studied philosophy and fine arts at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. She was actually raised as a Catholic, she ultimately abandoned religion ‘for good' during her teenage years, but embraced Islam at the end of her undergraduate studies.
She then travelled to Pakistan where she worked with Afghan refugees for a year. She earned her Ph.D. in Islamic studies from the University of Chicago in 1999. She went on to be very active in educating Canadian Muslims to become active participants in Canadian society at large. She is now Director of Islamic Chaplaincy and Professor at the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut, which is the first Islamic chaplaincy program in the United States.
In 2001 she was elected Vice-President of ISNA and in 2006 she was elected President of the organization. She has guest lectured at such institutions as the US Naval Academy. Dr. Mattson is the first female to lead the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).