The Lawfare Project Calls for Action on University of Waterloo Plan to Honor Ingrid Mattson

Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Waterloo
NH 3073A
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, ON, Canada
N2L 3G1

June 13, 2017

Dear Dr. Hamdullahpur,

This is respectfully to convey the objections of The Lawfare Project, a legal think tank based in New York City, to the University of Waterloo’s plan to award Dr. Ingrid Mattson, of Huron University College, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on June 14, 2017.

We believe that such an award would:

  1. discredit the University, at home and abroad;
  2. embarrass University donors and holders of honorary UWaterloo degrees;
  3. undermine the efforts of Muslims challenging extremism, including so-called “stealth jihad”; and
  4. bring into disrepute those University officers and staff responsible for facilitating the award.

At a time when so many of our Canadian Muslim colleagues and friends struggle, often at considerable personal cost, against the threat of radicalism, extremism, and associated violence, it is inappropriate for a Canadian university to single out someone of Dr. Mattson’s background and connections for such a singular distinction as your University today contemplates granting Dr. Mattson.

Dr. Mattson was for many years a prominent office holder in the US-based Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Like many others, The Lawfare Project regards ISNA as a hardline Islamist organization.

In a joint statement, representatives of moderate Muslim organizations, including the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, the American Muslim Congress, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, and the International Quranic Center, spoke of “groups like ISNA, in which radicals are camouflaged as moderates.” The Muslim statement cautioned third parties not to engage with ISNA, in order to avoid “legitimizing a radicalism that, regardless of ISNA’s rhetorical claims, is fundamentally hostile to Jews and suppresses the intellectual and social development of Muslims.”

Dr. Mattson rose to become ISNA’s president, occupying this position for some time when, in an unsurprising development, the U.S. Department of Justice designated the organization an unindicted co-conspirator in the major, successful Holy Land Foundation terror-financing prosecution. In the context of U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation, a U.S. District Court judge found (at pp. 14-15) that “[t]he Government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine (“IAP”), and with Hamas.” Hamas is a designated terrorist organization under Canadian and U.S. law.

As the public record clearly shows, Dr. Mattson has been an unreliable advocate of moderation.

Thus, following Mattson’s departure from ISNA, the Muslim Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism would pen an article titled “Ingrid Mattson: No Longer Leading ISNA, but Still Advancing Radical Islam.” Putting aside Dr. Mattson’s capacity for smooth management in assorted outreach contexts, the article spoke directly of Mattson’s “talent for untruthful improvisation . . . .” “Mattson,” it declared, “is consistent on one important issue: the variety of Islam she has embraced which, as represented by ISNA, is fundamentalist and radical, oriented toward Saudi Wahhabism, Pakistani jihadism, and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

In line with this, and in addition to ISNA, Dr. Mattson has been personally connected to a number of disturbing individuals and organizations, including the International Institute for Islamic Thought. In a development triggering considerable adverse publicity in Canada and the U.S., that Institute, among other troubling entities, assisted in endowing the Huron University College (HUC) Islamic chair now occupied by Dr. Mattson. Reflecting security worries that Mattson’s appointment to HUC may have been part of a broader pattern of facilitating Islamist penetration of academic, media, and other realms of Canadian and North American life, Winfield Myers observed in American Thinker:

The move validates widespread concern, as revealed in this Campus Watch article by Canadian journalist Barbara Kay and a letter from concerned faculty and friends at HUC, both published in May [2011], that the support of several Islamist groups in funding the chair would lead to the appointment of a radical Islamist as the first holder. In Ingrid Mattson, the funders’ wishes have been fulfilled.

Beyond the variety of other criticisms one could properly marshal against any University of Waterloo’s plan to recognize Dr. Mattson, lies a further problem. The fact of the granting to this individual of an honorary degree highlighting the discipline and calling of law constitutes, in our view, an insult to Canadian constitutional values enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For, in what we believe to be a direct assault upon the right of Freedom of Expression under s. 2 of the Charter, it is our considered opinion that Dr. Mattson and the interests supporting her have in the past misused Canadian libel law in an attempt to silence public discussion about her history and links, including the fact that she has never condemned publicly and by name certain ideological extremists with whom she has had dealings. It is perhaps because of this silencing that some University officials may have been unaware of the grave error reflected in the Mattson honoris causa proposal.

This error is a particular affront to Canadian Muslims, when one considers how many untainted Muslims would warrant an honorary doctorate. One thinks of Mrs. Raheel Raza, author and President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow; Dr. Farzana Hassan, author and former President of the Muslim Canadian Congress; Dr. Salim Mansur, author, University of Western Ontario Professor; and a great many more.

It is not clear at the moment whether the Mattson initiative reflects a simple, if egregious, failure of professional due diligence on the part of University of Waterloo officers, or whether such officers had been maneuvered unwittingly by Islamists or others from within or without the University, in the latter’s hope to “launder” Dr. Mattson for public consumption. Indeed, some combination of these dynamics may or may not be in train. The University must determine how this unacceptable situation unfolded.

Based on our observations of similar situations, it would be expected that supporters of Dr. Mattson would respond to concerns about her by proffering endorsements from Mattson’s associates. However, we suggest that the University consider that those offering endorsements in this case would generally be persons and institutions having themselves been, virtually by definition, compromised and rendered unreliable for diligence purposes. Indeed, some endorsers might feel obliged by their former personal or professional negligence to retroactively justify ill-informed earlier engagement with Dr. Mattson.

It is especially noted that Dr. Mattson has, to an extraordinary extent, relied for her credibility on limited links that she formerly had with the U.S. government, through outreach programs. Dr. Mattson’s usual reliance for bona fides typically involves advertising her activity with military chaplaincy programs, but the U.S. and Canadian chaplaincy programs have been fraught with issues of Islamist penetration. To mention merely one example: the U.S. program was established by the al-Qaeda-linked Abdurahman Alamoudi—once portrayed in network media as a model Muslim moderate—who today is serving a lengthy prison term following involvement in a major international assassination plot.

In fact, military and other government outreach has hardly been an unmitigated success: American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, invited to present at a Pentagon luncheon, was later “droned” in Yemen by the Obama Administration after being exposed as a lethal al-Qaeda terrorist plotter and ideologue. “They vetted people politically and showed indifference toward security and intelligence advice of others,” a former senior Federal Bureau of Investigation official reportedly concluded about outreach screening standards. Much the same can be said of some minor interfaith cohorts, as demonstrated by Mattson’s ability, when the heat is on, to invoke the endorsements of a very small stable of marginal—and in our opinion, unaware—Christian and Jewish groups.

A good deal of the foregoing is detailed in material appearing in court documents connected to the failed Mattson libel “silencing” lawsuit, Mattson v. Harris. No invitation to honor Dr. Mattson should possibly have been considered without relevant University of Waterloo officials’ having first acquitted themselves of their professional due diligence responsibilities, by, among other obligations, mastering the content of the publicly available documents therein. Please regard as incorporated by reference in the present email, The Lawfare Project’s July 6, 2016 news release, “Collapse of Mattson Libel Suit Signals Victory for Free Speech and The Lawfare Project,” including the very significant “Statement of Defence” and other documents appearing by link in, or as attachments to, the news release.

Based on a careful analysis of the evidence, The Lawfare Project therefore requests that the University of Waterloo:

  1. cancel forthwith the proposed awarding of its honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Dr. Ingrid Mattson;
  2. authorize establishment of an independent review of the circumstances surrounding this disturbing episode, including any manipulation by University insiders or others sympathetic to radical Islamism;
  3. upon announcing investigative findings and any disciplinary action, set and enforce appropriate standards of professional due-diligence for employees involved in the process of selecting candidate-recipients of University of Waterloo honorary degrees; and,
  4. make special efforts to recognize Canadian Muslims and others who honorably and effectively reflect the values and aspirations of Canada and the University of Waterloo.

In the interests of transparency and accountability, particularly given the security, public funding and donor aspects of this matter, this email is being copied to select University personnel, donors, recipients of honorary doctorates, media and others. After reviewing this email, together with the July 6, 2016 Lawfare Project news release and legal documents, those reading this communication may wish to share their views with you directly at

In the meantime, Dr. Hamdullahpur, given the ramifications of this matter for the University of Waterloo’s credibility and reputation, and for the public interest, The Lawfare Project would be grateful for a prompt and comprehensive response to the important issues raised above.


Brooke Goldstein
Attorney at Law
Director, The Lawfare Project

The Lawfare Project