May 10, 2017
Mr. Bill Given
City of Grande Prairie
Dear Mayor Given,
The Lawfare Project (LP), a non-profit legal think-tank based in New York City, notes with dismay the apparent failure of ethical due diligence implicit in your Office’s planning of the “Mayor’s Interfaith Breakfast,” scheduled for this Friday, May 12, 2017, in Grande Prairie, Canada.
The LP’s concern stems from the announced presence at the event, as a “guest speaker”, of Dr. Ingrid Mattson, former head of the Islamic Society of North America. In the LP’s opinion, Dr. Mattson is unsuited for a prominent role in an interfaith gathering purporting to emphasize solidarity and tolerance, and interfaith harmony. It is true, of course, that Dr. Mattson has what may appear to be some significant credentials. Unfortunately, there is more to Dr. Mattson and some of her links than may be immediately apparent. This additional information is readily available on the public record.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson was a longtime leader of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) when it was designated an unindicted co-conspirator in the successful US Holy Land Foundation terror-fundraising prosecution. Mattson’s current position at Huron University College was the result of an endowment built around money from radical-Islamic sources. “We don’t probe too deeply into values held by donors,” responded the College’s interim principal, when media questioned the issue. Any number of Dr. Mattson’s associates have been problematic from the perspective of Islamist supremacism, as have some of her teachings and preferred theological sources. For more information on Mattson, see the LP’s news release, “Collapse of Mattson Libel Suit Signals Victory for Free Speech and The Lawfare Project,” including its links to court papers.
The LP is unaware of any attempt by Dr. Mattson to repudiate, publicly and by name, the various troubling individuals and organizations with which she is, or has been, connected.
Those attempting to gloss over difficult aspects of Dr. Mattson’s record – including individuals and institutions embarrassed by their due diligence failures in her regard – commonly point to Mattson’s brief association with White House religious outreach under the Obama administration, as evidence of Dr. Mattson’s reliability. But this offers very limited reassurance, as radical-connected Islamists have had little difficulty getting privileged United States government access. Consider American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who spoke inspiringly of bridge-building, was invited to sermonize at the US Capitol, appeared at a US Defense Department outreach meal – and was droned to death a few years later, as a leading al-Qaeda operative in Yemen implicated in the taking of many innocent lives. “He made a favorable impression at the interfaith forums that became popular in the Washington area,” said the New York Times, in a summary of the reaction of Christian and Jewish interfaith activists.
Trying to discount and deride fears that hardliners had White House and other US government access, alleged comedian Dean Obeidallah pointed to what he considered an innocuous 2015 White House gathering. He offered a list of Muslims attending the function, as proof of the moderate nature of those able to gain such access. Without appreciating the irony, Obeidallah boasted that his list includedrepresentatives of ISNA (its origins intimately connected to the radical Muslim Brotherhood), the ADAMS [Islamic] Center (an entity reportedly fraught with radical problems), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). The Washington Times described MPAC as “an anti-Semitic organization that has defended infamous terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Dr. Mattson’s supporters often remind us that Mattson worked on the US Muslim military chaplaincy program. Perhaps that was to the good, but one should not assume too much. Then-chairman of the US Senate Committee on Terrorism, Senator Jon Kyl, opened a hearing by correctly observing that “one of the key architects of the U.S. military’s chaplain program” was Eritrean-born American Dr. Abdurahman Alamoudi. The very public Alamoudi was referred to as “everybody’s favorite moderate Muslim,” and was photographed with President George W. Bush, as part of the Bush outreach to Muslims. Alamoudi had had similar contacts with President Bill Clinton. At least two US administrations and their policy and security advisers may have overestimated Dr. Alamoudi; he is currently serving a decades-long sentence for his part in a transnational assassination plot.
And in an astonishing – but not unprecedented – development, Mr. Mohamed Elibiary, another beneficiary of the Obama administration’s Muslim outreach, served for years on the US Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). Mr. Elbiary’s public statements, during that time, pointed to someone soft on the radical Muslim Brotherhood. Some of his tweets were reportedly praised by Islamic State, and he became “a poster boy for critics who accuse the Obama administration of appointing radical advisers to a range of sensitive security posts.” Days ago, the now-ex-HSAC member was featured in a news article titled, “Former Obama DHS Official On ISIS Slaughtering Egyptian Christians: ‘What Goes Around, Comes Around’.” All this is simply another reminder that someone can be approved for sensitive government positions, and pass a police and security screening check, without being free of radical ideological taint.
Meanwhile, in Canada, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (formerly CAIR.CAN), born of the Saudi-funded US Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) (like ISNA, CAIR is an unindicted terror co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing prosecution), has worked with the closely connected, controversial Islamic Social Services Association. Together, they produced United Against Terrorism, a handbook that seemed to attempt to mainstream Dr. Mattson and other questionable individuals by recommending them as scholars to whom Muslims and broader civil society could defer in matters of Islamic theological interpretation, particularly in counter-radicalization contexts. To no one’s surprise, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police publicly withdrew its support for the handbook project. NCCM/CAIR.CAN, however, continues misleadingly to distribute the document, with the RCMP name and logo on it.
The Lawfare Project is, of course, not suggesting that Dr. Mattson is a criminal, a terrorist or might have a personal propensity to directly involve herself in religious violence. But responsible officials know that no individual deserves a privileged, legitimizing, officially endorsed public platform merely for constituting no threat to public safety. In civic matters, including those involving interfaith questions, officials and citizens have a larger duty of care requiring them to take fully into account the public interest going well beyond narrow issues of criminal law.
So, was the inclusion of Dr. Mattson in the “Mayor’s Interfaith Breakfast” event the result of incompetence? Were insiders to the planning process trying to “launder” an Islamist, the better to facilitate her access to interfaith, media, government and other influential circles?
Mr. Mayor, following a review of the material herein provided and linked, you will face a moral-ethical choice. On the one hand, you could honestly and forthrightly admit that errors have been made. On the other, you might be too embarrassed to be honest, and might further condemn yourself by doubling down on your invitation to Dr. Mattson. The former, honorable course would avoid opening the City of Grand Prairie, and event partners, presenters and sponsors, to being used to legitimize an individual and associates whom we believe to be unworthy of the influence that involvement in a high-profile, spiritually oriented gathering could avail them. The latter course would dishonor all concerned and facilitate further penetration by undesirables into influential Canadian circles.
The choice you make will give a revealing indication of the true commitment of this event’s organizers to morals, ethics and the integrity of Canada’s interfaith movement. Moreover, in light of increasing international constraints on travel to the United States and other international destinations by persons connected with radicalism, organizers and prospective attendees may have a further, very personal interest in not being associated with your “Mayor’s Interfaith Breakfast.”
There is no shortage of moderate, mainstream Canadian Muslims, and Canada is fortunate to be the home of reputable organizations such as the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. Given this fact, your Office’s due diligence failure is especially disturbing.
By copy of this communication, The Lawfare Project invites Canadians of all backgrounds and religious dispensations to make their views on this important public policy matter known to you, at firstname.lastname@example.org and (780) 538-0311.
Attorney at Law
Director, The Lawfare Project