September 17th, 2010
01:01 PM ET

'Draw Mohammed' cartoonist goes into hiding, paper says

Muslims burn an effigy of cartoonist Molly Norris in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 26.

A cartoonist for Seattle Weekly in Washington state is in hiding after she received death threats for mocking the Prophet Mohammed five months ago, the newspaper reported.

The alternative weekly’s editor in chief reported this week that artist Molly Norris is “going ghost” on the advice of FBI security specialists. She will be moving and changing her name, Mark Fefer wrote.

“You may have noticed that Molly Norris’ comic is not in the paper this week. That’s because there is no more Molly,” he said. “She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program – except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab.”

Norris’ hasty exodus stems from an April controversy in which the creators of “South Park” saw their 201st episode censored over its inclusion of Mohammed as a character. Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker received death threats because their 200th episode featured the Muslim prophet in a bear suit.

Norris dedicated her cartoon that week to Stone and Parker and attacked bloggers at Revolution Muslim, who she said made threats against the “South Park” masterminds. Couching the cartoon as a First Amendment protest, she accused the Comedy Central network of cooperating with terrorists for pulling the original episode.

(Revolution Muslim's organizers told CNN in April the blog post - which said Parker and Stone would "probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh," the Dutch filmmaker stabbed to death after releasing a film about the oppression of Islamic women - was a call to protest, not violence.)

Norris announced that May 20 would be “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!” above a cartoon of a cherry, domino, handbag, cup of coffee, spool of thread and box of pasta arguing over who was the “REAL likeness of Mohammed.”

But by the time May 19 rolled around, Norris had been overwhelmed with the attention surrounding her tongue-in-cheek proclamation. Tens of thousands of people took to Facebook to lambaste her, similar numbers jumped to her defense and Pakistan blocked access to the social-networking site until the furor subsided, according to The Big Blog, a cultural offering from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“It's been horrible,” Norris told the blog, explaining she had lost seven pounds and spent previous weeks issuing apologies and talking with national media. “I'm just trying to breathe and get through it.”

The controversy didn’t pass after the fictional holiday. On July 11, The New York Daily News reported that Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – who has been linked to the Fort Hood massacre and the botched May 1 bombing in Times Square – called for Norris’ assassination.

In the July issue of al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine, which included an article on how to “make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” by the AQ Chef, al-Awlaki called for Norris and others to be executed for their “blasphemous caricatures.”

“The medicine prescribed by the Messenger of Allah is the execution of those involved,” The Daily News quoted al-Awlaki as writing.

The FBI told the newspaper the threat was serious and said it was working with the targeted individuals. On Wednesday, Seattle Weekly reported Norris had gone into hiding.

Fefer wrote that Norris likened the development to cancer: “It might be urgent and serious, it might go away and never return or it might pop up again when she least expects it.

“We’re hoping the religious bigots go into full and immediate remission, and we wish her the best.”

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Anti-Islam • Islam • Pakistan • Religion • Washington state
soundoff (793 Responses)
  1. Sam

    @abuzayd
    People dont go into witness protection for saying any of those other things you mentioned. Love for Mohammed.. Look at that picture.. they seem Angry, hateful and desperate. Not loving.. Its pathetic to try to kill some woman cartoonist because she drew some cartoon.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • abuzayd

      @Sam, don't you think freedom of speech comes with responsibility... with consequences... why don't you go to harlem and call a black man a 'N*gger' to excercise your freedom of speech?
      imagine something that you hold dear, the most dear thing to you... now how would you feel if someone started insulting it. for example if you have a wife, some idiot started to verbally insult her in public would your blood not boil. muslims lover their prophet(pbuh) more than their wives, mothers, fathers, children, etc. do you really think they would not get upset when he is insulted in public. In private do what you want, it's your own spiritual destruction.. in public be prepared to take responsibiltiy and the consequences for what you say.

      September 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BJ

    This is what is so annoying about these religious fanatics that come to the US (most likely here on H1B visas). They come here to take advantage of the prosperity in the US, and fail to realize things are better here because of our social and political system that gives freedoms that aren't found in their native countries, that allows for change and free expression of ides. Religious jokes are common in the US. Mohammed doesn't get an exempition.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ausmadmaxx

      What is H!B visa. Did you loose your job. Al quaeda dont need our H!B visa.

      September 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    Am I the only one that finds it ironic that CNN put the links to this article and to the article about the church in Gainesville next to each other???

    September 17, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Waqas

    Just like the terrorist you all are HYPOCRITES!! Using "Freedom of Speech" and " Religion" to spill out the hate you have inside. The " Freedom of Speech" and "First Amendment rights" you soo fervently recite, DO NOT exist. If the construction of the Muslim center in NY is an "insensitive decision". How can making cartoons about a Prophet be alright? If expression of speech is your right, what law are we breaking with constructing a community center in NY???
    Your sorry situation is that your not even sure about your mother or father let alone religion. We Muslims practice Islam every day and every second of our lives. We live and die for it. Just because your not sensitive about your religion or your country does not require others to follow suit. If your a true Christian you SHOULD be offended is someone disrespects your religion. If someone burns your FLAG , you should be upset. Why dont I see any demonstrations??? The problem with your nation is that your only good at pointing fingers. Your so ignorant that half your nation cant even find Afghanistan on a map. If you cant defend your religion dont expect others to do the same.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • MuslimsROCK

      WOW, nice! You tell these morons....their not gonna get it anyway, but its sure nice to hear it!

      September 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ausmadmaxx

      She is wrong but inciting violence against her is Very wrong.

      September 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Doe

      Waqas – you your fellow just don't get the US, Christianity, and civilization. As a Christian, I AM offended when someone puts a crucifix in a bottle of urine and calls it art. But the difference between getting offended and cutting someone's head off of knifing them like Theo van Gogh is the difference between civilization and inhumanity. Condemning small disrepects by some of our fellow Westerners towards islam is frequent and public, even if we agree with the emotional intent. We DO have the freedom of speech here in the West. THAT, and a tolerance of others not agreeing with or liking our religion are part of the definition of what it is to be human and to be civilized. Do YOU guys get it?!!!

      September 17, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • scranton

      Seriously 90 percent of the Afghanistan people don't even know what a map is. Hopefully someday the majority of the muslim people will receive education to save themselves from themselves.

      September 17, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Waqas

      Im a practicing Muslim and let me tell you.. I am 110% against killing ANYONE!! No matter what, nothing gives someone the right to take another persons life. PERIOD!! I challenge anyone here to show me where in the Quran they have read that its OK to kill innocent people??? JIHAD is to defend your family, land, home.. JIHAD does not mean going into someone else's county and blowing down their buildings and killing innocent civilians.
      Me and 99.9% of the Muslims are against beheading someone or blowing yourself up in a market full of innocent civilians. I just want to let every one know that we Muslims are very sensitive about our religion. Like it or not.. thats how we are.. . We have always been DEFENDING ourselves, we are not the ones OFFENDING... The dutch cartoon's, the burning of the Quran, Draw a Mohammed cartoon,, these where all hateful acts that You commited.. And then you turn around and blame us for reacting.. If this was in response to the terrorist attacks??? two wrongs dont make one right..
      Like any other religion we have our share of finatics. Our religion has been taken hostage by a bunch of illierate idiots. Its just hurtful to read people critisizing the ENTIRE religion. They dont know the religion, they havent studied it... They are classifiying the entire religion of 1.5 Billion followers by the actions of a few thousand. Makes me wonder how these people are any different than those idiots. They too dont have a clue why they are blowing themselves up... they are just classifying the enemy by the color of his/her skin.

      September 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. wacky

    the problem most ppl that are not muslim have is that they lack understanding of Islam...
    Muhammad is not just some figure or leader in Islam...to muslims they love and revere him more then themselves or anyone else in the world..the love for Muhammed is unlike that seen toward any person in history...
    we here in the west do not have that connection with Jesus or whoever else we believe hence why we dont mind seeing Jesus insulted.....but i guarantee you if some person drew insulting and hate-filled images of someone they loved like their parent...you would also find ppl that would be physically violent toward the person responsible...

    September 17, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • peace

      love or religion that causes people to act violently to others is evil (i.e. not good) make sense?

      September 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • ep canuk

      Your post goes well with your name.

      September 17, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mimi

      As a Christian, I love and respect Jesus more than myself. It is extremely hurtful to me when I see unkind portrayals or hear his name profaned. However, as His follower, I know that He would never condone violence in His name. I believe that most Christians feel the way I do, and that is why artists and others are not forced into hiding to avoid our rage when they mock Jesus.

      September 17, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chuck

    Peace loving Muslims right? Islam and it's followers are a joke, this is more proof we cannot reason with these"people" and why we should be at war with Islam.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • wacky

      chuck we already have been at war with islam...we have killed over 2 million iraqi childern and women from 90's till 2000 alone...or the tens of thousands of sudanese childern and women that died because we bombed El Shefa pharmacy that provided over 90% of the medication to the country...just to name a few events

      September 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Common sense laking

      Sadly there little common sense left in this world. I doubt that comments like these help. If you are hell bent on war, then you deserve nothing else but to be in conflict with these "people". Calling a war on 1,000,000,000 people is quite stupid.

      September 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Emily

    No one took her rights away. She chose to draw her cartoon as a First Amendment protest. Her cartoon, obviously, was published.

    She also has the choice to stay where she is or to go into the witness protection program. She chose to go into hiding based on the advice of our law enforcement agencies. Our law enforcement officers are doing their jobs and following the leads her and all of us safe from these extremists. I am proud of and grateful to them.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emily

      (My apologies for the typos. This is how it was supposed to read.)

      No one took her rights away. She chose to draw her cartoon as a First Amendment protest. Her cartoon, obviously, was published.

      She also has the choice to stay where she is or to go into the witness protection program. She chose to go into hiding based on the advice of our law enforcement agencies. Our law enforcement officers are doing their jobs and following the leads to keep her and all of us safe from these extremists. I am proud of and grateful to them.

      September 17, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Embarassed American

    Why would any ingtelligent individual go out of their way to insult another's faith is beyond me. I'm not a religious individual and don't cater to any speciific faith or religionl. I think they all, Christainity included, have their nuts 'n bolts and fruiitcake extremist. However, that's a reflection of the individual(s) and not the faith or religion as a whole. It seems this Norris individual purposely went out of her way to incite and insult just to get the reaction she apparently has. In her attempt to prove one religion is capabel of more violence and intolerance than another, she only served to prove how ignorant, juvenile, immature and intolerant Americans really are. America has alreayd lost its upstganding image around gthe world due to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and other abuses, one where a soldier committed suicide rather than take part in the torture. How much more can America's image be damaged before it sinks to the absolute bottom of the cesspool?

    September 17, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • skwirrl

      Move to Afghanistan/Pakistan tribal region. No real American's want you here. Over there you can make bombs with your brethren and then die a martyrs death.

      September 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aztecwarrior

      It's the cartoonists fault. Southpark 200 and 201st episodes in late April were supposed to show Mohammed speaking against satire and criticism as in those episodes Mohammed is the only person whom you cannot make fun of. This was forced to be censored in US and the 201st episode was not shown at all. t
      This led to the everybody draw mohammed day – just to get back the episode. Capitulation of southpark to islamist lead to this. Not to mention Theo Von Gogh's murder for criticizing Muslim Husbands who beat wives followed by the prophet cartoons in denmark to protest that murder.

      Nobody wants to demonize the religion – when things get out of hand someone has to stand up and yell at the naked emperor ...

      September 17, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. conoclast

    I have drawn a wonderful cartoon of Muhammad; am I now on a death list? Maybe we westerners should ALL draw cartoons of Muhammad so the Muslim Crazies will be too busy with deathlists to continue their war on the Great Satan, hmm? Oh, and while I was at it I drew another cartoon, this one of Glenn Beck pouring kool-aid in Guyana; will the tea-baggers put me on a hit-list too? I'm seeing more and more similarities between the 'baggers and the Taliban every day!

    September 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • dwighthuth

      Put my name second conoclast.

      Who's going to be third and fourth?

      Come everyone let's all sign up for the "D- List"

      September 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nerdz

      This is the most ignorant post I have ever seen. However, I'll keep watching for death threat replies from the Tea Party. Stupid.

      September 17, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bert in UT

      Yes, we need to all draw pictures so that there are just too many targets. Anyone who will kill over a cartoon is evil. It is shameful that she must go into hiding. We should all draw cartoons in support of her.

      September 18, 2010 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  10. Nostradufus

    Incredible! All these argument and controversy about religion. None of you can prove anything about any of it. The only constant is that religion(man conjured up fantasies) is B.S., and the world suffers for it. Why does everyone need a religion to tell them how to live their live's?....can't we just respect each other out of common decency? I guess not.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. skwirrl

    only good muslim is a dead muslim

    September 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ep canuk

    I don't see why the US doesn't demand the extradition of the nutbar imams/clerics that threaten Americans and put them on trial and imprison them in the US. If you can do it to narco kingpins from South America and Jamaica, you can do it to these bozos as well. Thier host countries would gladly be rid of them.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mark Yelka

    You know, all I hear is that Islam is intolerant and punishes people for many offenses. Is there any faction of Islam that is sweet, nice, and embracing of differences?

    September 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • wacky

      lets see the only thing u have heard is what news organization put up cus they know ppl will read it...how many muslims have u even spoken to in ur life...

      September 17, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark Yelka

      All religions are fairy tales. Some are sweet and some are sour. Most have aspects of both. But, hunger isn't truly satisfied with pretend food

      September 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Doe

      Mark – that's the question that needs answering. Which is why I have begun raising the point about how quickly and consistently insults to muslims/islam are reacted to in these forums by some of the western participants. We let ourselves know when we are acting badly and we want others to see we are not in agreement many times with the more outrageous (though sometimes I am, but not with anyone doing actual physical harm). MUSLIMS – why do none of you condemn the muslim atrocities we hear about, including this outrageous threat to a person who did NOT draw a cartoon, as far as I know, but only advocated a Draw mohamed day. Where are your reactions? We are WAITING .......

      September 17, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Embarassed American

    Many of we Americans are sorrowfully enlightened about the religious beliefs of others. Especially Islam and the Qu'ran. You'd be surprised to fine the similarities between the Christian religion and Islam. In fact all your major religions were once one religion that split into several.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • skwirrl

      You dumb, misinformed dunce. You realize they kill each other over the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam right? Jesus is one of their profits but they don't care about that. If you don't believe exactly as they do you're wrong.

      September 17, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. iLikeStuff

    Muhammad ~~~~~> 8==D

    September 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
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