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Does This Boston Mural Contain a Hidden Terrorist Message?

Almost certainly not, but that isn't stopping Fox News commentators from seeing a "female Muslim suicide bomber."

Weekly Dig/Flickr

All right. Who's the joker who paid for this Al Qaeda mural right in the middle of Boston's Rose F. Kennedy Greenway?

The Institute of Contemporary Art says it commissioned Brazilian brothers Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo to paint this suspicious-looking character on the side of an old ventilation building. The museum claims the former bankers, known together as Os Gêmeos, are a "major force" in international street art who draw "yellow-skinned youth in red hoodies breaking into train yards and painting in subway tunnels." (For more examples, see here, here and penis warning! here.)

But some commenters over at Fox Boston's Facebook page know better: That's not a hoodie, and those clothes aren't what people wear in Brazil. The character is wearing a head scarf or burka and an Arab-style overshirt, clearly, and brandishing an assault rifle (not a construction crane superimposed over the hand, as might initially appear).

The identification of Boston's two-dimensional terrorist operative came after the news station posted a photo of the mural with this caption: "This is a new mural on a Big Dig ventilation building. What does it look like to you?" Here are some of the first responses that rolled in:

In the next couple days, critics got to elaborate more evocatively on the "terrorist" theory:

Mark Christopher: Looks like a ten year old did a drawing of a female muslim suicide bomber.

Stuart A Rubin: King Obama Hussein barack must have suggested this. No wonder i moved out af arabchusettes

Kim Rodrigues: Take it down, rip it down or paint over it with something positive instead of this crap. Go paint this garbage in your own country...Boston is going to the dogs...What's next for Boston SHARIA LAW?

Jason Mendonca: I’m going down there tonight and painting an American flag over it

So what is it? Defenders of Os Gêmeos might claim it's a case of mistaken identity. But that argument falls flat when you watch the below video of them painting the mural. Look what they're wearing on their heads: balaclavas! Definitely secret Taliban here. (H/t Bostinno.)

Top photo courtesy of the Weekly Dig.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.