FYI, Dr. Ingrid Mattson: President, Islamic Society of North America, is coming to Harvard University this week, as part of the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) series. Last year, Harvard brought Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a CPL speaker. The date and time: Tuesday, 13 March 2007 @ 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM, Starr Auditorium, Belfer Building (map here). From CPL's website:
"Dr. Ingrid Mattson is the President of the Islamic Society of North America. She is the first woman, the first nonimmigrant and the first Muslim convert to be elected to head the largest Islamic group for social outreach and education in North America. Her election comes at a pivotal time in the history of Islam. Dr. Mattson is Professor of Islamic Studies and Director of Islamic Chaplaincy at the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, CT."
Dr. Mattson is widely lauded as a moderate Muslim, someone who represents an "American" Islam. Some background on Dr. Mattson:
She converted to Islam in the last year or two of college, according to her brother. "She wasn’t the only one of her siblings to switch religions — her older sister Peggy Smith, now a lawyer in Kingston, converted to Judaism, said Hal, who remains a Catholic. A “liberal upbringing” encouraged the Mattson kids to ask questions..." (More on her brother's view of Catholicism here, somebody missed the boat on what his religion requires.)
"In her essay on the topic (Muslim modesty), she writes: "The Koran orders Muslim men and women to lower their gaze when speaking with the opposite sex." She advises women not only to wear headscarves but also "to adjust the ends of their headscarves to cover their chest". In keeping with the Islamic norms of modesty, she does not shake hands with men; she also feels that Muslim women should not take part in musical performances."
In a CNN online chat, she was asked "At what point in history... did the Islamic nation turn from a philosophical and educated state comparable to the Greeks to the now third world state it is in?" Her response: "The decline began with the colonization of the Muslim world by European powers. One of the first things the colonialists did was to dismantle the institutions of what we could call civil society. The Muslim world has until now not recovered from that dismemberment of its society." In response to a question about the Treaty of Sevres in 1920 that dismantled caliphates and sultanates, she stated: "...the overthrowing of the caliphate, which was a plan of European powers for many years. This deprived the Muslim world of a stable and centralized authority, and much of the chaos that we're living in today is the result of that."
Some suggested questions to ask Dr. Mattson at the lecture:
Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage, and it allows gay couples to adopt children. What does Islam say about homosexuality, gay marriage, and adoption of children by gays?
You freely converted to Islam, leaving the faith of your upbringing. What does Islam say about leaving the Islamic faith? Is it allowed under Islamic law? Can you give an example of how leaving Islam could be treason?
Why do we see that Muslim countries have the least freedoms of religion and worship? Since American Muslims are part of the world-wide Islamic community, what can they do to promote freedom of religion overseas?
What is the role you see for Islamic law and jurisprudence in the U.S., both for now and in the future? What happens when Islamic law contradicts our common law legal system?
Why should Muslim women "not take part in musical performances"?
How much funding does the ISNA receive from Saudi Arabia? Is it fair for the KSA to fund Islamic proselytizing in the U.S. when the U.S. cannot do the same there? Why doesn't the ISNA divest itself of Saudi funding as a statement against the KSA's religious intolerance?
You say that European colonialism caused the decline of Muslim world. Do you not acknowledge that European colonialism also brought education, hospitals, roads, and civil engineering to the Muslim world? That European archeologists unearthed and preserved antiquities of Muslim countries, including Egypt and Iraq?
Your courses in Islamic Law at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, CT rely heavily on Sheikh Qaradawi, infamous for his fatwas in support of suicide bombing and calling for death for homosexuals. On the other hand, in 2004, Tunisian reformer Lafif Lakhdar and others petitioned the United Nations to call for an international treaty banning the use of religion for incitement to violence. In this petition, Sheikh Qaradawi was singled out as one of "sheikhs of death." How can you reconcile these radically different views of Qaradawi?
What is the ideology of ISNA? Is it Sunni, Hanafi, Shia, Whahabi, Salafi, Akhwan, Deobandi, Ahmadiya, Ismaili?
- Do you endorse the Saudi exclusion of non-Muslims from Mecca and Medina?
If anyone attends the lecture, please let me know how it goes. Thanks!