Daily Israel Report

Obama Prayer Leader Linked to Hamas Group

A Muslim cleric, whose group has been linked with an organization that funds Hamas, will be offering prayers at Obama's inaurguration.
By Avraham Zuroff
First Publish: 1/18/2009, 12:08 PM / Last Update: 1/18/2009, 12:37 PM

Macdonald Center

A Muslim scholar and president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) will be one of the clerics to deliver a prayer at the National Cathedral as part of the ceremonies the day after Barack Obama’s inauguration. Although against terrorism, Dr. Ingrid Mattson’s ISNA has been linked with a “charitable” group that has funded millions of dollars to the Hamas terrorist organization.

A convert to Islam, Dr. Ingrid Mattson is director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is the largest religious organization representing Muslims in North America. Dr. Mattson has been the organization’s president since 2006.

The ISNA describes itself as “an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations.”

Does Mattson’s organization make good on its promise to foster relations with other religious communities? In 2007 and in last July, federal prosecutors in Dallas filed court documents linking Mattson’s ISNA with the Hamas terrorist organization. Neither Mattson nor ISNA have been charged. However, prosecutors wrote in July that they possessed “a wide array of testimonial and documentary evidence expressly linking” the ISNA with Hamas and other radical groups.

The ISNA is fighting its being included on a list of conspirators in the Dallas court case against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) for allegedly channeling charity funds to the Hamas terrorist organization. Although the 2007 trial ended in a stalemate, in the November retrial, the foundation and five of its former leaders were convicted of funneling millions of dollars via charitable organizations to the Hamas terrorist organization.

The ISNA wants to show that it is a peaceful religious organization. While the trial was taking place, the ISNA had provided religious training to the FBI. At least one Jewish leader feels that Dr. Mattson is strongly against terrorism. “I haven’t found anyone anywhere who’s found anything Dr. Mattson has said that’s anything other than clearly denouncing terrorism in quite explicit Islamic terms,” stated Mark Pelavin, director of inter-religious affairs for the Union for Reform Judaism, another organization participating in the inaugural service.

Dr. Mattson addressed Harvard College in March 2007 that many American Jews have an existential fear that Muslims are anti-Israel. Such fear leads Jews to ally with Christian fundamentalists who are supportive of Israel and critical of Islam, she said.

Medieval Islamic History scholar Daniel Pipes, in response, wrote, “One wonders why that should be the case, given the anti-Semitism among Muslims so rampant that it compares to that in Nazi Germany in the 1930s.”