Posted by on December 06, 2010 in Blog

Looking through the “World” section of The New York Times today, I was a bit surprised and dismayed to see a large photo of Muslims praying in Mecca (2nd image in rotator) under the headline “Cash Flow to Terrorists Evades US Efforts.”

The excuse for using that photo under such a headline is apparently the suspicion of US officials, revealed through Wikileaks, that terrorist financiers are using the following methods to raise money (in the order they appeared in the article): “bank robbery,” “kidnappings for ransom,” “drug proceeds,” and “fund-raising at religious pilgrimages to Mecca.”

The arbitrary choice of Muslims praying in Mecca as the lead photo for a terrorist-financing story may very well have been completely random and most likely does not reflect malignant motives. But the subconscious association it makes, if not itself made by such a subconscious association, is one of linking Islam with terrorism. Such imagery is all too prevalent in today’s public discourse on Islam, and one that contributes to the rise in the anti-Muslim sentiment.

One can see the effects of this sentiment by looking at the comments section of the article, where a critic of President Obama said: “hopefully our next President will not tremble at the thought of flattening our enemies.” Another commentator said it was perhaps “majorities” in “Islamic societies” who support the terrorists, and went on to warn “to continue to treat the problem of radical Islamic terrorism as having absolutely nothing to do with that religion itself might be delusional and dangerous.”

One most certainly cannot blame one indefensible choice of a photo for such reactions, and, truth be told, prejudice will always exist at some level no matter how responsible mainstream media’s coverage of such matters is. But it is equally certain that such imagery plays a counterproductive role by reinforcing the prejudice that insists on painting Muslims with a very broad brush.  What do you think?