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Obama criticized for associating with Ingrid Mattson

TOP OF THE TICKET

The president of the Islamic Society of North America, who took part in this week's National Prayer Service, is accused of supporting Hamas.

January 25, 2009|Johanna Neuman

WASHINGTON — Tuesday, he became the first president in history to use the word "Muslim" in his inaugural address. From the steps of the U.S. Capitol, President Obama said:

"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, January 28, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 75 words Type of Material: Correction
Obama and Muslims: An article in Sunday's Section A about President Obama's efforts to reach out to the Muslim world reported that federal prosecutors had accused the Holy Land Foundation of Texas of funneling more than $12 million to Hamas. The story should have gone on to say that the Muslim charity and five of its former leaders were convicted in November of federal charges of funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group.

Then Wednesday, in an appearance at the National Cathedral that marked the official end of four days of inaugural celebration, the new president and first lady attended the National Prayer Service, where Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, joined ministers and rabbis in offering prayers for the new administration.

And that has critics complaining that Mattson is a front for an organization that supports Hamas and saying that Obama should steer clear of her and her organization.

"She has also made statements that refuse to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah," notes terrorism expert Steven Emerson. "She has made statements that essentially legitimize Osama bin Laden's actions by claiming that he would be peaceful if only he had a peaceful outlet to express his views."

In May 2007, federal prosecutors listed the organization as one of hundreds of co-conspirators in a case alleging that the Holy Land Foundation of Texas funneled more than $12 million to Hamas. Emerson concedes that though the Islamic Society of North America was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, none of the alleged acts of terrorism it supported happened on Mattson's watch.

The dust-up could signal the difficulty facing Obama, a Christian whose father was Muslim, in reaching out to Muslims. And his outreach to Muslim nations during his inaugural address -- followed by a round of calls on his first day in office to Palestinian, Israeli and Arab leaders -- was met with a cautious reception.

"It is very good that Obama wants to find a 'new way forward' with the Muslim world, but first he has to change U.S. policy over Israel and the Palestinian conflict," Maskuri Abdilah, head of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, told AFP. "This is crucial because this problem is the root of all violence and tension between the Islamic world and the West."

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Excerpted from Top of the Ticket, latimes.com/ticket

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