Obama prayer leader linked to Hamas

Muslim scholar chosen to speak at inauguration prayer service suspected of link to terror group.

January 18, 2009 07:05
2 minute read.
Obama prayer leader linked to Hamas

Ingrid Mattson 248 88. (photo credit: AP [file])

A Muslim scholar chosen to speak at President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural prayer service Wednesday is the leader of a group that federal prosecutors say has ties to terrorists. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, is one of many religious leaders scheduled to speak at the prayer service at Washington's National Cathedral. Mattson 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. Mattson, who was elected president of the society in 2006, is a professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. But in 2007 and as recently as last July, federal prosecutors in Dallas filed court documents linking the Plainfield, Indiana-based Islamic society to Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist organization. Neither Mattson nor her organization have been charged. But 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. Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama's inaugural committee, would not discuss the case or say whether the committee knew about it. "She has a stellar reputation in the faith community," Douglass said Saturday night. The existence of the court documents was first reported by Politico. The Islamic Society of North America, which describes itself as "the nation's largest mainstream Muslim community-based organization," is fighting its inclusion on a list of co-conspirators in the Dallas terrorism case against the Holy Land Foundation. In court documents, Mattson's group says it does not condone terrorism. The court documents represent a complicated picture of the group. 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. Karen Hughes, a former Bush confidant and under secretary of state, called Mattson "a wonderful leader and role model for many, many people." All 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 in November of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas. The Islamic Society helps certify Muslim chaplains for federal prisons. Mattson leads a program at the Hartford Seminary that trains Muslim chaplains for the US military. Mattson was one of about three dozen leaders, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and two former Republican congressmen, Vin Weber and Steve Bartlett, who developed a report released last fall on how the US can fight extremism in the Muslim world.

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