In 2006, a child with only one eye in the center of her fore head was born in Chennai, India. The severe chromosomal disorder was aptly known as Cyclopia. When I went to research her case, the hospital told me that the mother was taking an unusual fertility treatment. There was a chance that she was the subject of an illegal clinical trial for an American anti-cancer drug. I wrote about her case in The Red Market and photos of the child went viral on the Internet after I posted them on my blog at at Wired.
The photos have since gone on to have a life of their own on the internet–particularly in the Muslim world. According to Islamic tradition*, right before the apocalypse a one-eyed prophet named Masih ad-Dajjal will emerge and teach a wildly popular and totally false gospel. People will follow the unholy teaching and get drawn into the Devil’s influence.
In 2009, the image that I took in Chennai went viral among apocalyptic muslims who were sure that the end was nigh. They wrote that the child was born in Israel and, as one viral e-mail stated, that “Dajjal will appear somewhere between Iraq and Syria , after the Battle of Istanbul takes place.” At the time, the photo resonated with Iraqis who were contending with American occupation and violent inter-sectarian conflict. The battle of Istanbul had not yet happened, but the world seemed to be falling apart. When the viral emails spread thousands of hits would flood my website.
Every now and then there would be a voice of reason when moderate Muslim websites would debunk the new claims and link to my work as the original source of the image. For a time, the popularity of the image would die down. Today, however, a new brand of violent fundamentalist Islam is spreading across the Middle East. As this lunatic fringe of Islam sweeps across Iraq and Syria leaving a bloody wake of murder and destruction in its path, it’s no surprise that many Muslims feel that the end of days is at hand once again.
In the last week I have been getting an inordinate number of hits on my website searching for pictures of the cyclopian child. After the break I’ll post the photo, but beware, some readers will find it disturbing.