By Kathryn Deschamps
On May 3, 2012, Dr. Ingrid Mattson spoke on American Muslim communities and Christian-Muslim relations in the first Kellogg Lecture, a part of Episcopal Divinity School’s Alumni/ae Days event, “From Monologue to Dialogue: Exploring World Religions to Promote a Culture of Peace.” The two-day series of events promotes the enrichment of knowledge and understanding of other faith traditions.
Dr. Mattson is Professor of Islamic Studies, founder and former director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program, and current director of the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. From 2006 to 2010, she was also the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America.
In the first of two lectures, Dr. Mattson discussed Muslims as members of American civic and interfaith communities. American Muslims are a diverse community, she said, that welcome integration in American society and interfaith dialogue. However, they face numerous challenges, from the fear of “scrutiny and discrimination” to the specific needs of their congregation for personal and communal spiritual growth.
Dr. Mattson spoke with hope about the Muslim community’s desire to overcome these obstacles, to decide their response to further the public good and participate in their country. The diverse communities of American Muslims are an advantage: “We come with different cultures and different cultural understandings of Islam. Lacking a denominational authority, we have to figure out what we’re going to do together. It is a conversation in the community.”
The challenge of promoting societies of equality, justice, and peace that align with spiritual beliefs and practices unites Islam with all world religions. Dr. Mattson concluded her lecture with her thanks for the interfaith community for “standing up beside us” and urged American Muslim communities and all religious and social justice organizations to face the challenge “that God has placed on all of us.”
"What Does It Mean to Be an Observant Muslim in America?
By Dr. Ingrid Mattson
Introduction by Dr. Angela Bauer-Levesque
, academic dean and Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr. Professor of Bible, Culture, and Interpretation at Episcopal Divinity School