The editor of "The Seattle Weekly" reports in the paper's latest edition that cartoonist Molly Norris, acting on FBI advice, is dropping her weekly cartooning for the publication. She is also going to stop her regular cartoons for "City Arts."
It's the latest development stemming from the sadly vicious reaction to Norris's advocacy for freedom of expression. The FBI has been concerned for Norris's safety since Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Islamic cleric in Yemen, declared her a worthy target of execution by his followers for her facetious declaration of "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." She tossed off that suggestion in angry response to Comedy Central television censoring references to the prophet in a "South Park" episode that also included Jesus and othe religious figures.
"Weekly" editor-in-chief Mark D. Fefer wrote of Norris:The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, "going ghost": moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity.
As Crosscut's Pete Jackson recently reported, Norris has become friends with local Islamic leaders. Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the Seattle chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Jackson, "CAIR has a no tolerance policy for threats of violence." Norris recently wrote a Crosscut book review of "Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam" by scholar Akbar Ahmed.
After her initial suggestion of a protest against the Comedy Central censorship, someone unconnected with Norris created a Facebook page for Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" that generated such anti-Islamic remarks that Norris was horrified.
In the long run, perhaps, the story of new friendships between Norris and local Muslims will be the real story. For now, though, it is a day to mourn the ability of a fanatic to steal Norris' rights as a person and the rights of her readers to see her work. And to wish Norris, out there somewhere, all the best.