Hard to understand why Washington Post would call terrorist al-Baghdadi ‘austere religious scholar’

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Published: October 29, 2019 2:14:30 AM

Predictably, the internet didn’t let this lapse pass quietly—angry criticism and sarcastic parodying, featuring the who’s-who of global terror and villainy, from Osama bin Laden to Bollywood’s own Mogambo, flooded social media.

ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (File photo)ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (File photo)

How global audiences would react to the news of Daesh, or ISIS, chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi blowing himself and three of his children up inside a tunnel—he was being pursued by elite American troops and found escape impossible—is indeed a hard thing to predict. Expect jubilation from some, indifference from some others, and sorrow from his Daesh followers and, possibly, those terror groups who saw Daesh as a fellow traveller. That said, while writing chiefly for the American audience—given how the US has suffered from terrorism, and projects itself as actively waging a war against terror even though many countries would like to contest that claim—it is hard to see why a leading American newspaper would label al-Baghdadi “an austere religious scholar”, especially to ‘correct’ the rather apt descriptor of “terrorist-in-chief”. But The Washington Post did just that.

Just how rightly reviled the ISIS is in the West—apart from, of course, the war on terror—is evident from a bit of comedy gold that became viral when a woman internet-user wrote that by the time she is done with ISIS, it would have become “WasWas”. Jokes apart, it is appalling that a mainline newspaper should have gone so wrong, and in a headline, at that. Predictably, the internet didn’t let this lapse pass quietly—angry criticism and sarcastic parodying, featuring the who’s-who of global terror and villainy, from Osama bin Laden to Bollywood’s own Mogambo, flooded social media. While it is true that Post eventually corrected its headline, and even issued a statement, such lapses in sensitivity only fuel attacks on mainline media. In a “post-truth” world, this can be “bigly” bad, especially if you have a leader whose favourite pastime is slandering the media even for fair criticism.

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