I question the LA Times’ photo selection

February 7, 2008 § 1 Comment

The LA Times published a short profile of Sayyid Fadlallah, the highest-ranking Shi’i cleric in Lebanon. The photo below ran next to the web-version of the story. Everyone knows that the open-mouth photo of a public figure is NEVER flattering, so I question why the LA Times chose to run a photo of Fadlallah where he looks like he’s about to sneeze or yell at somebody.

(AP)

The LA Times article is sympathetic to Fadlallah — or as sympathetic as a Western media outlet will allow — and doesn’t fall back on too many misconceptions, namely, that Fadlallah is the “spiritual leader” of Hezbullah. (Though the author does erroneously say that Fadlallah was “once” the group’s spiritual leader.) In fact, the author portrays Fadlullah’s relationship with Hezbullah as more of a competition. A quote from the article:

“There’s a real rivalry with Nasrallah, [the secretary general of Hezbullah] who has become both a military and religious leader,” Traboulsi said. “Many conservative Hezbollah clerics are reacting against Fadlallah’s rulings.”

I think it is a little hasty and probably inaccurate to portray the situation as a “rivalry” between Fadlallah and Nasrallah. Both figures occupy totally different roles in Lebanon — and I doubt that many people would argue that Nasrallah fashions himself as a religious leader. Fadlallah’s position as a widely-respected and followed marja has been solidified and there is nothing that either camp could gain by engaging in a competition.

But still, A.R. Norton’s book on Hezbullah actually states that the majority of Lebanese Shi’a follow Sistani, as opposed to Fadlallah, but this does not lessen Fadlallah’s impact.

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