Former ISNA President Says U.S. Muslims Share Oppression With African-Americans


An Islamic news portal has reported on a lecture by former Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) President Ingrid Mattson in which she suggests that Canadian Muslims should base their identity on Canadian “First Nations” people. According to the report, Ms. Mattson bases this view on the relationship between the injustices experienced by African-Americans and those she believed suffered by U.S. Muslims:

In her lecture, she said that the demographic makeup of the American Muslim community has influenced how Muslims there understand their identity.  ‘The reason why I think American Muslims have been able to extract themselves a little bit from simply making American Islam into an anti-Western discourse is for one simple reason and that is approximately 25 percent of the American Muslim community is African American,’ Dr. Mattson told the audience. ‘The priorities of African Americans, in terms of justice, and seeking justice and identifying what is not just, are different than immigrants.’ ‘African Americans are looking at their lives in terms of the structural injustices within the United States, as Americans, and they see an economic system, a legal system that has resulted in the highest incarcerated population in the world, in terms of percentages, and that African Americans are incarcerated in far greater numbers,’ she added. ’They see all around them, not only their history of repression within the United States, but also current legislation and practices.’ She opined that the African American Muslims have pushed the Muslim community to question their understanding of justice. ‘So they were the ones that turned the question around to their immigrant brothers and sisters and said wait a minute – you talk about injustice but ignore the injustices being done to us; you talk about injustice yet you ignore the fact that there are people in your own community who are contributing and participating in systems that oppress us, who are participating in economic systems in the inner-city that take advantage of poor African Americans.’ Dr. Mattson went on to tell the audience that this interaction between African American Muslims and immigrant Muslims has resulted in the discourse moving beyond identity politics to ethics. ‘So I think for American Muslims, African Americans really elevated the issue of justice and generalized it and made it a universal principle and brought it out of simply identity politics – the West versus Islam,’ she said ‘They made us look more deeply at systematic injustice and understand that justice is not about identity but it is about ethics that we should carry wherever we were and we needed to start prioritizing our issues differently.’ She then proposed that, for the Canadian Muslim community, First Nations people can be the challenging conscience for Canadian Muslims as African Americans were for U.S. Muslims. 

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Ingrid Mattson was elected as President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 2006 after long service as an ISNA functionary including as ISNA Vice-President. She is also the director of the Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations which appears to be developing growing ties with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), another important part of the US Muslim Brotherhood and one of the funders of the Huron chair. Mattson was appointed in 2009 to the then newly established IIIT Council of Scholars and was replaced in 2010 as ISNA President. A post fro October 2011 reported on the appointment of Dr. Ingrid Mattson as the first Chair of Islamic Studies at Huron University College, Previous posts have reported on the controversy surrounding the decision by Huron University College to accept funds from Canadian and U.S. Muslim Brotherhood groups to fund the chair in Islamic Studies. A Hudson Institute report details the Muslim Brotherhood origins and ties of both ISNA and IIIT.

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