The Seattle Weekly reported it rather laconically last Wednesday: “You may have noticed that Molly Norris’ comic is not in the paper this week. That’s because there is no more Molly.”
Norris, the Weekly’s popular cartoonist and originator of Facebook’s notorious “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” page, had not died. Rather, she had gone into hiding because of death threats from Islamic supremacists. The Weekly explained:
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. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program--except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It’s all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon....
Molly Norris conceived of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” as a joke, but it went viral in part because it was a gesture of defiance in the face of violent threats and intimidation: if Islamic supremacists were threatening to murder European cartoonists Kurt Westergaard and Lars Vilks because of their cartoons of Muhammad, and anyone else who dared to draw him, then if everyone drew him, the thugs couldn’t possibly kill us all, could they?
Well, no, they couldn’t. But Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American-born imam who is linked to so much jihadist activity in the United States, including the Fort Hood jihad assassin, the Christmas underwear jihad bomber, and even 9/11, called for her death. And so now she has disappeared. As the Weekly said, there is no more Molly Norris: she has changed her name and gone into hiding.
This is the sort of case that the President of the United States should be talking about. As he wrung his hands about the prospect of Muslim rioting over Qur’an-burning, and told the prospective Qur’an-burner to stand down rather than admonishing Muslims not to react with violent rage to something that did not harm them, the Molly Norris case gave Barack Obama an opportunity. He should have gone on television and given a brief lesson about how freedom of speech is a foremost bulwark against tyranny and a cornerstone of any society that respects the dignity of the human being.
Obama could have said that the idea that Molly Norris would have to give up her career and the name she had established as a cartoonist, and live in hiding because of a cartoon, or series of cartoons, is unconscionable. He could have told the Islamic world that neither Muslims nor their prophet were harmed by cartoons depicting Muhammad, and that the willingness of some Muslims to commit murder over such depictions was the only thing that makes people care to draw Muhammad in the first place.
Obama could also have said that to threaten people with death and to kill people who had nothing to do with any cartoons of Muhammad because of those cartoons was sheer madness, and was a form of violent irrationality that was destructive to free societies -- and as such, it was something that the U.S. would do everything it could to resist. He could have announced that Molly Norris and others who were threatened by Islamic supremacists for exercising their freedom of speech or freedom of expression would be given full round-the-clock protection -- and that if violent protests and riots over cartoons or Qur’an-burning broke out in areas where American troops are deployed, those troops would put down those riots and protect the innocent to the fullest possible extent.
Meanwhile, there is no indication (officially, anyway) that Molly Norris is receiving any aid from law enforcement authorities as she disappears and reconstructs her identity – in sharp contrast to the Ground Zero mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is receiving protection from the New York City Police Department because of threats he has allegedly received. In even sharper contrast, Gainsville, Florida authorities have announced that they plan to bill the abortive Qur’an-burner Terry Jones $180,000 for security costs for the Qur’an-burning event that he ultimately called off – despite the fact that they never bothered to warn Norris beforehand that he would be footing the bill.
Apparently when Muslims behave with violent irrationality, it is entirely the responsibility of non-Muslims who supposedly “provoke” them to clean up the mess they make. It is unfortunate that in these dark days we don’t seem to have any leaders who will stand up for the principles of freedom of expression, explaining their importance and defending their necessity. Molly Norris, and every free citizen, deserves nothing less.