||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (December 2014)|
||This biographical article is written like a résumé. (November 2014)|
August 24, 1963 |
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
|Occupation||Professor, activist, Islamic scholar|
Ingrid Mattson (born August 24, 1963) is a Muslim religious leader, a professor of Islamic Studies and an interfaith activist. She is 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.
Early life and background
Ingrid Mattson, the sixth of seven children, was born in 1963 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where she spent her childhood and attended Catholic schools. She credits the Catholic women who educated her with providing "a fantastic education" and "a place to explore and develop this early, youthful spirituality". She studied Philosophy and Fine Arts at the University of Waterloo in Canada from 1982–87. As part of her course of study, she spent summer of 1986 as a visiting student in Paris, France. During this time, she befriended West African students from a Sufi Muslim community. On reading the Qur'an, she found, "an awareness of God, for the first time since I was very young." After returning to Waterloo, she converted to Islam in 1987. She completed her studies in Waterloo and earned combined Bachelor of Arts degrees in Philosophy and Fine Arts in 1987.
Advanced education and early career
Ingrid Mattson received a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 1999. She then served as a Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations from 1998–2012 at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. During that period, she 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.
While serving as the vice-president and president of the Islamic Society of North America, Mattson worked on a number of occasions with United States government official. She provided consultation during the administrations of US Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. This worked focused on policies regarding violent extremism, Muslim-American military service, and protection of civil rights for Muslims-Americans . 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.
Her work focuses on fostering positive relationships between groups of differing religious faith. She is an advocate for interfaith engagement and multi-faith activism in the interest of the public good. 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, to speak at the organization’s annual convention in Chicago in 2006. Mattson spoke the next year at the groups 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. She also established programs with other Jewish organizations. The "Twinning Program" with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is one such program. Another is the three year “Jews and Muslims in America” program developed in cooperation with the Jewish Theological Seminary and funded by the Carnegie Institute.
Mattson has advocated for greater understanding and partnerships between Muslims and Buddhists as well. She shared the stage with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on a number of occasions, including the “Seeds of Peace” program in Seattle in 2008, in Indiana in 2010, and in Chicago in 2011.
Mattson is an original signatory to “A Common Word”  and has participated in many Christian-Muslim conferences and dialogues with the Jordanian Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought. Her leadership in interfaith cooperation has been recognized by many religious leaders such as Rabbi Burt Visotzsky of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate in 2012 by the Chicago Theological Seminary for her service to the faith community.
Views on the role of women in Islam
Mattson advocates for a greater public role for Muslim women as religious leaders. When she founded the first accredited graduate program for Muslim chaplains in the US, she insisted that it be open to women. Mattson wears a hijab, but argues that governments should have no authority to enforce religious dress or ban it. Mattson has worked with a Muslim social service agency called Peaceful Families. The group to advocates against domestic violence in the Muslim community and argues against interpretations of the Qur'an that permit violence to or discrimination against women.
Opposition to Islamic fundamentalism
Mattson has been a critic of Islamic religious extremism since she first encountered the Taliban while trying to educate Afghan refugee girls in Pakistan. Soon after the September 11 attacks, Mattson published an internet article entitled “American Muslims have a Special Obligation.” In the article, 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.” Since the attacks of September 11, Mattson been interviewed many time on the radio. She has lectured publicly to denounce 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. 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.
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- 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
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- 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.
- On WHYY’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross “A Convert to Islam Takes Leadership Role,” September 28, 2006;
- On APM’s “Speaking of Faith” with Krista Tippett “A New Voice for Islam,” March 6, 2008;
- The Spiritual Fallout of 9/11,” September 5, 2002;
- On WNPR’s “Where We Live” with John Dankoski “Christians and Muslims,” February 13, 2008:
- On WNPR’s “Where We Live” with John Dankoski “Finding a Religious Common Ground,” January 27, 2009:
- On CBC’s “The Sunday Edition” with Michael Enright “In Search of Moderate Muslims,” January 4, 2010:
- On WBEZ’s Worldview” with Jerome McDonnell “Muslim Women’s Leadership,” May 4, 2010:
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