Ingrid Mattson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Ingrid Mattson
Born August 24, 1963
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Residence Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Occupation Professor, activist, Islamic scholar
Religion Sunni Islam

Ingrid Mattson (born August 24, 1963) [1] is a Muslim religious leader, a professor of Islamic Studies and an interfaith activist. She lived and worked in the United States beginning in 1989 for over two decades and is now the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. Mattson is a former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and was described as “Perhaps the most noticed figure among American Muslim women” in a 2010 New York Times article.[2]

Early life and background[edit]

Ingrid Mattson, the sixth of seven children, was born in 1963 in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and raised in Kitchener, Ontario where she attended Catholic schools. She stopped practising Christianity as a teenager and "forgot about God altogether".[this quote needs a citation] She credits the Catholic women religious of her youth with providing "a fantastic education" and "a place to explore and develop this early, youthful spirituality".[3] She studied Philosophy and Fine Arts at the University of Waterloo in Canada from 1982-1987. For her program, she traveled in the summer of 1986 to Paris, France where she befriended West African students from a Sufi Muslim community. She converted to Islam in 1987 in Waterloo after reading the Qur'an gave her “an awareness of God, for the first time since I was very young.”.[3] From 1987-1988 she lived in Pakistan where she developed and implemented a midwife-training program for Afghan refugee women with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).[citation needed] She moved to Chicago in 1989 to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Chicago.[citation needed]

Higher education[edit]

  • University of Chicago, Ph.D., Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 1999.[4]
  • University of Waterloo, B.A. (joint honors), Philosophy & Fine Arts, 1987.[5]


Huron University College[edit]

In 2012 Mattson was appointed the London and Windsor Community Chair of Islamic Studies at Huron University College’s Faculty of Theology.[citation needed]

Hartford Seminary[edit]

From 1998-2012 Mattson was Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary, Hartford, CT, where she also founded the first accredited graduate program for Muslim chaplains in America. For a number of years she was also the Director of the MacDonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary.[6]

Religious leadership[edit]

White House and Government relations[edit]

During her service as ISNA vice-president and president, Mattson met many times with US government officials during the Bush and Obama administrations to discuss solutions to violent extremism, Muslim military service and how to protect American Muslims’ civil rights.[7] John O. Brennan, the Director of the CIA, when he was Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Assistant to President Obama thanked Mattson for her leadership at public meeting at New York University.[8]

Interfaith understanding and advocacy[edit]

Mattson is a passionate advocate for interfaith engagement and multi-faith activism for the public good.[9] She has spent her academic career teaching Islamic Studies and interfaith relations in historically Christian institutions. As ISNA president, Mattson established a national office for interfaith relations in Washington, DC in 2006. She invited Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism,[10] to speak at the organization’s annual convention in Chicago in 2006. Mattson spoke the next year at the URJ’s Biennial where she received a standing ovation and announced “a new partnership that promotes interfaith dialogue and other relationship-building activities” between the two organizations.[11] Programs with other Jewish organizations include the “Twinning Program” with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding [12] and the Carnegie-funded, three year program with the Jewish Theological Seminary [13] “Jews and Muslims in America.” [14] Mattson has advocated for greater understanding and partnerships between Muslims and Buddhists as well. She shared the stage with His Holiness the Dalai Lama [15] on a number of occasions, including the “Seeds of Peace” program in Seattle in 2008,[16] in Indiana in 2010,[17] and in Chicago in 2011.[18] Mattson is an original signatory to “A Common Word” [19] and has participated in many Christian-Muslim conferences and dialogues with the Jordanian Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for IslamicThought.[20] Her leadership in interfaith cooperation has been recognized by many religious leaders such as Rabbi Burt Visotzsky [21] of the Jewish Theological Seminary [22] and she was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2012 by the Chicago Theological Seminary for her service to the faith community.[23]

Views on controversial issues[edit]

Women in Islam[edit]

Mattson advocates for a greater public role for Muslim women as religious leaders, although she stops short of advocating for female imams of mosques.[24] When she founded the first accredited graduate program for Muslim chaplains in the US, she insisted that it be open to women.[25] Mattson wears a hijab, but argues that governments should have no authority to enforce religious dress or ban it.[26] Mattson has worked with a Muslim social service agency called Peaceful Families [27] to advocate against domestic violence in the Muslim community and argues against interpretations of the Qur'an that permit violence to or discrimination against women.

Terrorism and extremism[edit]

Mattson has been a critic of Islamic religious extremism since she first encountered the Taliban while trying to educate Afghan refugee girls in Pakistan.[28] Soon after 9/11, Mattson published an influential entitled “American Muslims have a Special Obligation” where she stated “I, as an American Muslim leader, denounce not only suicide bombers and the Taliban, but those leaders of other Muslim states who thwart democracy, repress women, use the Qur'an to justify un-Islamic behavior and encourage violence.”.[29] In the decade after 9/11, Mattson gave dozens of radio interviews and countless public lectures where she denounced violence in the name of Islam and advocated for peaceful resolution of conflicts and differences. In a 2007 essay, Mattson condemned “Exclusivist, triumphalist,communal identities (religious or political)” that justify violent attacks on other groups.[30] Mattson was one of the original signatories of the Amman Message that was an international Muslim response to sectarian violence and terrorism in the name of Islam [31]

Critics and islamophobia[edit]

Since rising to a position of public prominence, Mattson has come under unrelenting attack from a small group of critics who have accused her of being everything from a Wahhabi to a Hamas sympathizer. These critics have mostly been linked by the Center for American Progress with an “Islamophobia Network” in the United States.[32]

Public service, boards and related experience[edit]

  • Member, Faith-based Advisory Council, U.S. Department of Homeland Security 2012.
  • Senior Fellow, Aal Al Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan (appointed, 2010; Fellow since 2005).
  • Interfaith Task force of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, 2009-2010.
  • President, Islamic Society of North America (2006-2010).
  • Vice-President, Islamic Society of North America (2001-2006).
  • Council of Global Leaders of the C-100 of the World Economic Forum (2008).
  • Leadership Group, U.S.-Muslim Engagement (USME) Project (2007-2008).
  • Board of Directors, Nawawi Foundation, Chicago, IL (2000-2008).
  • Advisor to PBS film project, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet (2001-2002).
  • Advisor to the Afghan delegation at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, thirty-ninth session, New York, (March 15—April 4, 1995).

Selected awards and recognition[edit]

  • Doctor of Law, honoris causa, Trinity College, Hartford, CT, 2012
  • Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Chicago Theological Seminary, 2012
  • Wisam al-Istiqlal (Medal of Independence) of the First Order for contributions to the field of Islamic Studies, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, 2010
  • Jordan’s Royal Institute for Strategic Studies “500 Most Influential Muslims,” 2009, 2010, 2011.
  • Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” 2007
  • Newsweek Magazine’s “People to Watch” in 2007


Her book, The Story of The Qur'an: its history and place in Muslim Life (now in its 2nd edition) was chosen in 2012 by the National Endowment for the Humanities for inclusion in its “Bridging Cultures” program.[33]


  • On WHYY’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross “A Convert to Islam Takes Leadership Role,” September 28, 2006;[34]
  • On APM’s “Speaking of Faith” with Krista Tippett “A New Voice for Islam,” March 6, 2008;[35]
  • The Spiritual Fallout of 9/11,” September 5, 2002;[36]
  • On WNPR’s “Where We Live” with John Dankoski “Christians and Muslims,” February 13, 2008:[37]
  • On WNPR’s “Where We Live” with John Dankoski “Finding a Religious Common Ground,” January 27, 2009:[38]
  • On CBC’s “The Sunday Edition” with Michael Enright “In Search of Moderate Muslims,” January 4, 2010:[39]
  • On WBEZ’s Worldview” with Jerome McDonnell “Muslim Women’s Leadership,” May 4, 2010:[40]


  1. ^ "Mattson, Ingrid", in Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History, Edward E. Curtis (Infobase Publishing, 2010) p362
  2. ^ "Muslim Women Gain Higher Profile in U.S.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  3. ^ a b "A View from the Edge". Commonweal Magazine. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  4. ^ "The University of Chicago Magazine". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  5. ^ "Alumni Profiles | Office of Alumni Affairs | University of Waterloo". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  6. ^ "Hartford Seminary". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  7. ^ "War on Terrorism: April 2007". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  8. ^ "Dr. Mattson and Mr. Brennan presentations - Part 1". YouTube. 2010-02-15. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  9. ^ "The Axis of Good: Muslims Building Alliances with Other Communities of Faith". On Being. 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  10. ^ "Home". URJ. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  11. ^ "Reform Jewish leader stresses Muslim dialogue, Sabbath observance - WorldWide Religious News". 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  12. ^ "The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding". 2011-11-13. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  13. ^ "The Jewish Theological Seminary - Home Page". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  14. ^ "Judaism and Islam in America". ISNA. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  15. ^ "His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama". 2013-10-19. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  16. ^ "InterSpiritual Day". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  17. ^ "Dalai Lama-inspired book explores common ground between Islam and Buddhism". Tibetan Review. 2010-05-15. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  18. ^ "Building Bridges: Religious Leaders in Conversation with the Dalai Lama". YouTube. 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  19. ^ "A Common Word Between Us and You". 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  20. ^ "The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  21. ^ "The Jewish Theological Seminary - Burton L. Visotzky". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  22. ^ "2013 Commencement -"The Miracle of Multi-faith Education" - Burt Visotzky, JTS". YouTube. 2013-06-03. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  23. ^ "CTS : Challenges & Responses : Summer 2012". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  24. ^ [1][dead link]
  25. ^ "The Pluralism Project at Harvard University : An Emerging Model of Muslim Leadership". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  26. ^ "Muslim Women’s Leadership". Ingrid Mattson. 2010-05-04. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  27. ^ "Peaceful Families Project". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  28. ^ Jane Lampman. "Muslim convert takes on leadership role". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  29. ^ "American Muslims Have a 'Special Obligation'". 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  30. ^ "A Call for Moral Leadership: Imagining a New Heroism". 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  31. ^ "The Official Website of". The Amman Message. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  32. ^ "Fear, Inc. | Center for American Progress". 2011-08-26. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  33. ^ "National Endowment for the Humanities". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  34. ^ "A Convert to Islam Takes Leadership Role". NPR. 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  35. ^ "Show Archive | On Being". 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  36. ^ "The Spiritual Fallout of 9/11 | On Being". 2002-09-05. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  37. ^ "Christians and Muslims | Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network". 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  38. ^ "WWL: Finding a Religious Common Ground | Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network". 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  39. ^ "The Enright Files - In Search of Moderate Muslims | Ideas with Paul Kennedy | CBC Radio". 2010-01-04. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  40. ^ "Muslim Women's Leadership". 2010-05-04. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 

External links[edit]