Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
March 16, 2007

Obama's Mosque

Obama-Mosque

That's one shiny dome, huh?

Call it unfortunate timing that the LAT backgrounder on Barack Obama's Islamic education shared the same front page yesterday with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.  (Why the media incessantly runs the same grimy shot of that guy, and why the press sucked up the Pentagon's propaganda over Mohammed confessing to almost every real or imagined terrorist act in the past ten years is still another story.)

What I was particularly interested in, however, was how the Times framed Obama's early religious experience.

Credit is due, in the article, for mentioning that "political Islam was far less influential in the 1960s than it is today."  At the same time, the story — and, especially, the photo gallery — weaves the impression that Obama — between the ages of 6 and 10 — was a more devout practicing Moslem than he lets on.

Although Obama has made known he attended an Islamic school for a couple of years, the Times seems intent on nailing him for a lack of specificity about his religious curriculum and occasional prayer attendance.  Having first gone to a Catholic school for two years, Obama went to a Muslim school for third and forth grade.  Although the article describes the school, founded by the Dutch, as a high-level place that produced many of Indonesia's elite, the inference — especially given this image leading off the photo gallery (and given the Western media's tendency to use of Islamic religious symbolism to connote ideological extremism) is that Obama still somehow attended a madrassa — or fundamentalist Islamic school.

In the world of parsed facts and factual hair-splitting, however, it would have been nice to know more specifically that this mosque — put forth as authoritative visual evidence that the juvenile Barack attended a religious complex where he allegedly prayed — didn't even exist at the time.

You can view the rest of the images in the photo gallery, including the murky class picture with Obama in the back; a shot of the "whistle blowing" former vice-principal at Obama's Jakarta public school who recalls his attendance at religious lessons (despite his official records having been "eaten by bugs"); and the practically accusatory last shot of Obama framed in a shiny, overly precious light, posed in front of our the American flag.



(image: Paul Watson / LAT.  March 15, 2007. latimes.com)

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