(RNS) The Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim group in the U.S. and Canada, on Tuesday (Sept. 28) named a gregarious Sudanese-born Virginia imam as its new president.
Imam Mohamed Magid, executive director of the 5,000-family All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Va., will succeed outgoing president Ingrid Mattson, who in 2006 became the first woman elected to the position.

Magid, 45, served two terms as ISNA’s vice president under Mattson, where he focused on interfaith relations, youth issues, and women’s issues. As president, Magid’s priorities will continue to include interfaith relations and improving Islam’s image in the United States, said ISNA spokeswoman Sarah Thompson.

“A lot of local communities don’t know how to engage with the media and the communities around them, and they’re asking for help,” Thompson said. “Reaching out and improving interfaith relations is what Imam Magid excelled at.”

Magid, who was unavailable for comment, takes the helm of ISNA as Muslim Americans face increased hostility and discrimination. According to a Pew Research Center poll last month, Americans’ favorable views of Islam fell from 41 percent to 30 percent in the past five years, while unfavorable views increased from 36 to 38 percent.

Magid studied under his father in Sudan before coming to the United States in 1987. He rose to prominence in 2005 after a lengthy and positive profile in Time magazine. Last year, he and Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk were named Washingtonians of the year by Washingtonian magazine.

Mattson is currently on sabbatical from Hartford Seminary, where she is director of the McDonald Center for Islam and Christian-Muslims Relations. She is spending the next few months catching up with her family, but intends to stay active in Muslim American affairs and resume teaching next year, Thompson said.

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