Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gender Politics - ISNA's First Female President

The recent election of Ingrid Mattson to the presidency of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) was received with great enthusiasm by the North American Muslim community and the public at large. Her election was seen as a sign of maturation, and as a vindication of Islam's respect of women's rights and contemporary Muslims' ability to overcome cultural traditions and rise to the level of the high moral demands of Islam.

Yet some Muslims in North America, and many in Muslim societies, raised questions as to the propriety of a female presiding over the largest Muslim organization in North America, and as to the compatibility of female leadership with Islamic principles and precepts. As one of the skeptics about the position taken by the Islamic Society of North America put it: "Why ISNA is violating [the] Sunnah and clear guidelines in Islam? Is that ISNA now being influenced by [a] local version of Islam?"