Posts Tagged ‘Oliphant’

Talented artist goes into hiding: Molly Norris & “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

No more Molly

It’s official.

An hour ago, the Seattle Weekly announced:  “You may have noticed that Molly Norris‘ comic is not in the paper this week. That’s because there is no more Molly.”

The talented cartoonist who launched the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” on Facebook, and then regretted and withdrew her proposal, has nevertheless had to go into hiding – moving, changing her name, washing out her identity – at the suggestion of the FBI. It’s just like the witness protection program. The government, however, will not be picking up the tab.  She will.

Norris viewed the situation with characteristic humor: “When FBI agents, on a recent visit, instructed her to always keep watch for anyone following her, she responded, ‘Well, at least it’ll keep me from being so self-involved!'”

She joins a growing class of writers, filmmakers, cartoonists, political activists, beginning with Salman Rushdie in 1989 who must be guarded 24/7.  As Paul Berman wrote in The Flight of the Intellectuals:

“And so, Salman Rushdie has metastisized into an entire social class. … who survive only because of bodyguards and police investigations and because of their own precautions. This is unprecedented in Western Europe since the fall of the Axis.  Fear — mortal fear, the fear of getting murdered by fanatics in the grip of a bizarre ideology — has become, for a significant number of intellectuals and artists, a simple fact of modern life.”

Murdered: Theo van Gogh

We’ve written before about Molly, and also urged people to sign the petition backed by cartoonists Oliphant and Garry Trudeau.

Almost more troubling than the announcement is the American reaction — in particular, the youngsters who seem to feel it is incumbent upon us to avoid expressing opinions that distress others, and that Norris herself is at fault for the fatwa that has been brought upon her.  (Yes, yes, I know.  It’s not technically a fatwa.  I don’t care.)  At some point, to have any kind of character at all, one has to decide not to be a coward.

The last time I suggested at a gathering that maybe it was time to reintroduce some old-fashioned First Amendment values into our educational system, I was attending a dinner party with liberal academics.  They acted almost as if I’d burped at the table. Isn’t that a Sarah Palin kind of thing, they asked.

Maybe. But I remember the day when it was a left-wing kind of thing, and I spent a portion of my university years signing letters for Amnesty International, and working in London for Michael Scammell‘s Index on Censorship.

God knows I hear enough offensive things towards my own values, beliefs, religion, etc. – and on a daily basis, too. But freedom of speech begins at the point where you offend me.  Otherwise it has no meaning at all.

Postscript: Medievalist Jeff Sypeck speaks out on the affair here.

Postscript on June 14, 2018: It appears that Dutch politico wants to start his own “Draw Muhammed” day. Perhaps he’s never heard of Molly Norris. Read about that here.

Join Oliphant, Garry Trudeau in petition

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Since we wrote about cartoonist Molly Norris being added to an execution hit list a few days ago here, there’s been an article in the Huffington Post here, and an article in the Washington Post here.  (Nothing from the New York Times.)

It’s a spit in the bucket, I know, but Pulitzer Prizewinning cartoonists are circulating a petition protesting politically and religiously based attacks on cartoonists around the world.  Please join Oliphant, Garry Trudeau, and others by signing the petition here.  The petition is sponsored by Cartoonists Rights Network International, a sort of Amnesty International for cartoonists.

The organization last month gave its Annual Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning to Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani.  Sandya Eknaligoda also accepted a Special Recognition award for her spirited challenge to the Sri Lankan government to account for her disappeared husband, writer and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda.

Back to Norris.  CNN spoke to FBI Special Agent Marty Prewett:

“Prewitt declined to comment on where Norris is and whether she is receiving protection from law enforcement. Al-Awlaki also threatened eight other cartoonists, journalists and writers from Britain, Sweden and Holland.”

Colleague David Horsey, a Seattle cartoonist, blogs about Norris here.

Mark Zuckerberg

Meanwhile, BBC Urdu reports that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is being investigated by Pakistani authorities under a section of the penal code that makes blasphemy against Muhammad punishable by death:

“According to the paper, Section 295-C of the penal code reads: ‘Use of derogatory remark etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet, whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for fine.’

Molly Norris

So, peace be unto Muhammad. But not unto Mark Zuckerberg.”

As the daughter and the mother of cartoonist, this cause has a special resonance.  However, one doesn’t seem to be able to address this issue without offering the politically correct proviso, so here goes:  I respect Islam.  But I also respect freedom of speech, and protecting those whose exercise of such freedom has been entirely non-violent. Freedom of speech can only begin when you say something that I find offensive.

Mollie Norris’s website, which disappeared when she did, is reported to be under construction.  We wish her well.