Islam Counts on Soccer Mom to Soften Fears

October 20, 2006

Author: Stephanie Simon

Source: Detroit Free Press

The new president of the Islamic Society of North America lives in an Illinois suburb.

Ingrid Mattson had given up God. She'd stopped saying her rosaries and taking communion. She was an atheist, abroad in Paris before her senior year of college.

But she could not stop listening to the Quran. "Forget it," she told herself. "This can't be happening to me." But daily she popped the cassette into her Walkman, mesmerized by the chanting and oddly moved by lines such as: "Of him seeks every creature in the heavens and on earth; every day in splendor."

When she returned home to Canada after that summer of 1986, Mattson signed up for the only Arabic class she could find. That spring, during Ramadan, she gathered several Muslim friends as witnesses and pledged herself to Allah.

It was an unusual move for a white ex-Catholic. And it set Mattson, 43, down a trailblazing path. She is president of the largest Muslim organization on the continent, an educational and professional organization called the Islamic Society of North America. She's the group's first woman president, the first nonimmigrant and first convert to Islam.