Molly Norris, former cartoonist for the Seattle Weekly, has become the target of a death threat because of a satyrical piece called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." The FBI advised Norris to move, change her name and erase her identity because a fatwa, or religious edict, was issued this summer by a Yemeni-American cleric that threatened her life. Think about that for moment. An American cartoonist creates a satyrical piece about the the prophet Muhammed and she is now essentially in a witness protection program because of death threats to her life.
Most Muslims regard any depiction of the prophet Muhammad as blasphemous. Offending the religious beliefs of others is not a good idea. Norris' satire apparently offended the deeply-held religious beliefs of the wrong person.
Norris says she meant her work only to be a commentary on Comedy Central's cartoon TV series South Park controversy in which Comedy Central censored an episode in which the prophet Muhammed was depicted. South Park is well-known for its satyrical attacks on Christians, Jews, Scientologists homosexuality, abortion rights, the NRA, you name it... no religion, no deeply-held belief or issue was spared the scorn of South Park's writers. Or so we thought.
Several Facebook pages were inspired by Norris' cartoon that caught the attention of the Pakistani government. During the month of May, Pakistan banned access to Facebook and YouTube to prevent unwanted images from being spread in their country.
"I made a cartoon about the television show South Park being censored," she wrote. "I never started a Facebook page. I apologize to people of Muslim faith and ask that this 'day' be called off."
But her apology was too late. Molly Norris is no more. She has changed her identity in fear of her life.
I personally hold many deeply-held beliefs and I am as offended by this as when artists put a crucifix in urin, display it in a museum and call it "art." I think that purposely offending our Muslim, Christian, Jewish or any other neighbors' beliefs is boorish, elitist, insensitive and just plain wrong. Regardless of one's religion, we should all respect the beliefs of others.
That is the American way. Or so I thought.
Our Constitution gives us the right of free speech. We have a responsibility to use it wisely.
And it should not threaten your life. Or so I thought.