Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Karen Lugo, a professor at Chapman College, Chapman University School of Law.
FP: Karen Lugo, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Tell us about who Molly Norris is and why you are promoting the idea of a Molly Norris Day.
Lugo: Thanks Jamie.
I think that Molly Norris is the first high-value casualty in the campaign to Islamify America. And, we let them take her down without a whimper. Molly is the woman who off-handedly suggested that there be an “Everybody Draw Mohammad Cartoon Day.” She was surprised by the reaction as the idea caught on – worldwide. Pages devoted to the campaign popped up on Facebook and the Mohammad depictions multiplied. Evidently, westerners worldwide were quite anxious to rebel against the chill on speech accepted by publishers – and the project took on a life of its own. I posted several articles that chronicled the raging success of the idea, and my Facebook page was shut down for half of the “cartoon day.” Seems that the Islamist threats against Facebook were effective.
Ultimately, we are told that a fatwa was issued against Molly Norris and the FBI notified her that they could not protect her. So, she was instructed according to press reports to “go ghost.” Molly Norris is gone; same as dead. She is no longer with us. There is a talented cartoonist somewhere with a new name, new home, new community and new identity – but her name is no longer Molly Norris and she is totally cut off from the life she knew. As we all know, ghosts are supposed to pose no threats to cultural stability and Islamist sensibilities. But, I say – not so fast! Molly must live as inspiration in our cause to never accommodate threats of retaliation for exercising our fundamental liberties. She should be named the patron saint of Americans who refuse to sacrifice free speech and expression on the altar of political correctness.
FP: Why did our society let Islamists take Molly Norris down without a whimper? What has paralyzed us?
Lugo: Like the parable of the frog who is boiled to death by incremental warming of the water, our speech rights have been chilled one ice cube at a time. We now check our own speech; from fear both of social condemnation and Islamist reprisal. With every act of self-censorship, we diminish the potency of our most effective weapon in the war against radical Islam: forthright and frank speech.
Our expressive rights, whether drawing cartoons or publicly declaring that shariah law is on a collision course with our Constitution, are the most powerful tools we have to expose the false claims perpetrated by Wahhabists among us. Our cherished constitutional principles do not afford us many legal methods to deal with a subversive element that seeks to advance a stealth agenda. But ridicule and satire do provide the means to expose the consequences of piecemeal accommodation of this aggressive socio-political belief system. This is not about hate or hostility but is about provoking a long overdue debate.
This could-be-fatal tendency to self-censorship is in full manifestation on our college campuses. As an appointee to the California Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, I recently participated in a hearing on California state university campus speech rights. After listening to “the powers” from key administration staff, it was clear that students are informed that the right of one to “be free from harassment” is equal to the other’s right to “speak freely.” In other words, the expressive rights enshrined in our Constitution have now been formally subjected to what is considered by our courts to be the Heckler’s Veto: a group complains that government should silence or restrict the speech of one group so as to avoid offending the other group. This equal balancing of speech rights and group feelings results in free speech being held hostage to the most vocal whiners among us.
FP: Who issued the fatwa against Norris and why can the FBI not protect her?
Lugo: Anwar Al-Awlaki – radical jihadist imam who likely inspired the Fort Hood Shooter, the Times Square Bomber, and prompted a plot to kill U.S. soldiers – put Molly Norris on a hit-list calling her a prime target and saying that her “proper abode is hellfire.” Eight others of British, Dutch, and Swedish origin were also listed as targets associated with publicizing “blasphemous caricatures” of the prophet. The Seattle FBI special agent in charge never committed to offering protection but only “attempting to do everything in our power to assist the individuals on that list to effectively protect themselves and change their behavior to make themselves less of a target.” In other words, appease the terrorists and hope they will go bother somebody else! Of course, this policy of head-in-the sand only emboldens thugs and terrorists. Oh yeah, schoolyard bullies, too.
Call me cynical but I find it highly suspect that the headlines declaring that the FBI could not protect Molly Norris and announcing that she had “gone ghost” appeared just days after Pastor Jones was coerced into canceling his “burn the Koran” stunt (al-Awalaki put the hit out on her in July but the FBI did not announce its “no protection” stance until September). Seems the government had an emphatic statement to make: “when Islamists threaten violence, your government will press you to back down; if you don’t comply, you are on your own.” The timing of both events underscored a very powerful message from our government. This message was certainly noted more as a victory by the jihadists than it was ever noted by our commentators as a defeat for our liberty-based western democracy.
FP: How come the media is not talking about this? Where is the Left? Where is the ACLU? Progressives are supposed to be for free speech, no?
Lugo: Unlike the solidarity shown in the media and entertainment industry during the McCarthy era, there was no noted support for Molly Norris. Recently, I helped to spearhead the movement that successfully demanded release of U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi from Evin Prison in Iran. There were free speech and press organizations from around the world that rallied to her cause. There is a recognized fault line between the two incidents – where Roxana Saberi was imprisoned on a trumped up charge of purchasing alcohol and was considered an innocent captive of a radical Islamist regime, Norris is thought to have provoked her own death-by-forced-disappearance. Rather that shaming the Islamists for their attempts to control what is said and written in the land of the free and the home of the brave, journalists worldwide largely condemned Molly with their silence.
It concerns me most that so-called feminist groups worldwide ignore the plight of women who suffer abuse or repression under shariah-based systems. I work with several women’s rights groups in Europe and share nothing in common with them politically, but we are joined in our concern for women who do not have the freedom to express fundamental claims to unalienable equal rights and individual liberty. We work to encourage and embolden women who will call for reform of shariah-based Islam. As Ayann Hirsi Ali – the great ex-Muslim convert to enlightenment thinking who authored Infidel – says, if we all stand together and speak out at the same time, it is very difficult to make any one person a target.
Finally, it is important to note that, in an exemplary show of fidelity to expressive rights, the ACLU has stepped forward to represent Derek Fenton, the New Jersey transit worker who was fired after burning two pages of the Koran on 9⁄11 at the Ground Zero Mosque demonstration.
We all have a role and each must be involved as a vigilant defender against incursions against speech rights and core western traditions. If Europe, where challenges to Islamist demands are often considered incitement to hate, is not instructive on how we must define and defend our culture then the battle is already lost.
FP: Karen Lugo, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview and thank you for your courageous fight for freedom and for those who are persecuted because of their fight for freedom.
Editor’s note: For the whole story on why the Left won’t come to the defense of individuals such as Molly Norris, read Jamie Glazov’s book, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.