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Posted at 11:05 AM ET, 07/19/2010

Q&A: Muslim cartoonist offers her thoughts on depicting Muhammad

By Michael Cavna

Comic Riffs reported a week ago that Molly Norris, the Seattle cartoonist whose poster art spawned the recent "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," has had an execution hit ordered against her -- one that the FBI reportedly is treating as a "very serious threat."

The Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki -- arguably the highest-profile English-speaking supporter of violent jihad -- said that Norris is a "prime target" for execution and that her "proper abode is hellfire." Al-Awlaki, 39, writing in the new English-language Al Qaeda magazine that calls itself "Inspire," condemned nine people -- including several European illustrators for "blasphemous caricatures" of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.


In Comic Riffs' ongoing discussions with cartoonists and other artists about religious depictions in their work, today we talk briefly with independent cartoonist Sepideh Anjomrooz [pictured right], a Muslim cartoonist who lives in Iran. Given her faith, her nationality and her experience, we posed a few questions to seek her insights. Here are her thoughts:

MICHAEL CAVNA: So what do you think of cartoonists depicting the prophets of various faiths, be it Muhammad or Moses?

SEPIDEH ANJOMROOZ: It's better we learn to respect formal religions, even respect beliefs that have been accepted by many more of people in the world, such as Buddhism. And we must accept it as a law.

I saw many cartoons about the holy prophets in [an] international cartoon contest book [that] didn't make any problem for cartoonists, [prophets] such as Noah, Moses ... but they aren't offensive. And I like them.

MC: As a cartoonist, have you ever rendered Muhammad -- or have you considered doing so?

SA: I've never draw any cartoon about "MUHAMMAD" as the Holy prophet of Islam. And I don't think about this theme.

MC: If you were a North American newspaper editor, would you republish such work as Lars Vilks's depictions of Muhammad?

SA: I would not republish them, because, I think, these cartoons inflame [regions of the world] and [spark] extremists.

MC: So where do you yourself draw the line, as it were?

SA: We must know [Iran's imposed] redlines, but it depends on the location of the redline for everyone. ... Unfortunately, wrong policies create pessimism. [But] certainly, anti-Islam cartoons are not the best way to control the extremism.


By Michael Cavna  | July 19, 2010; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  Interviews With Cartoonists, The Political Cartoon  | Tags:  Molly Norris, Sepideh Anjomrooz  
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I think this: "And we must accept it as a law." pretty much sums up the difference between an enlightened liberal deliberate democracy where the law is written by representatives of the people, and theocracy where the law is, at least in part, written by majority adherence to religion.

DMD is exactly the opposition to theocracy and the affirmation of free deliberation.

Posted by: T-Paine | July 19, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Wait a second: is this the Self-SAME Cavna who recently blasted Molly Norris for being a coward?

Now, he is presenting a "guest speaker," a woman who knows her place and is proud to say so. But wait: I don't think I even heard an opinion in that little Q & A; did I miss something?

Cavna is reinforcing the idea that the only choices for women regarding the EDMD debacle is this: you can either fail to be a leader of peace for the free world (like Ghandi), thus causing your own fatwa; or, you can be a traditional, albeit conservative Muslim woman who knows her place.
Your last blog (re: Molly Norris) was about her "cowardice," for not taking on the whole world, but you are a coward for hiding behind your latest woman representative of the faith.

Posted by: frontporchtalker | July 19, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

No matter how many times you revisit this subject, it still is about violence, not religion. ALL orthodox religions are to some extent misogynistic, exclusive, and condemning of the unfaithful. What draws attention to this issue is that an artist is condemned to DEATH because of the art they created.

The argument is that we must respect other religions. What if the other religions don't respect us? Are we obligated to continue our respect? Perhaps... but should we encourage violence, prejudice and hatred because it cloaks itself in the guise of religious freedom? What if the KKK suddenly figured this out and declared itself a religious movement? Would someone rise up and say "well, lynching is a part of their culture - you can't disregard that"???? Next, the Mayans rise up from the Andes to hold human sacrifices in Times Square to draw attention to their religious oppressions.

This is the point where I start feeling atheistic - but it IS possible to worship and believe in a complex and varied deity without hurting anyone. What we have to do is rise up and say "oh no, that ain't right!"in a collective voice that holds basic human rights first, and religious freedoms crap, now I just started ANOTHER argument.

Posted by: jsutliff | July 19, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

>> frontporchtalker:

Whose blog are you reading? Obviously not mine. Molly Norris and I spoke recently and she has repeatedly indicated that Comic Riffs has represented her position clearly and fairly.

We welcome your comments, but please: Bring the facts.


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Posted by: tradevipmbt | July 20, 2010 5:09 AM | Report abuse

I beg your pardon for confusing your column with Lurio's--where he called Molly Norris a coward. I got my facts wrong.
I know that Molly did not support being called a coward for not standing-up...Lurio's comments.

Posted by: frontporchtalker | July 21, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Molly Norris:'EVERYBODY'S A CRITIC'(some more than others)!
Everybody's a critic, it seems.
Now there are two women Muslim cartoon-ists, "guests" at WP, who are most harsh in their opinions of her.
Unfortunately, Molly Norris has been made a 'poster cartoonist' for everybody's agenda, which is brilliant AND dangerous.
It's still a 'man's world' in cartoon-land, it seems. Just in case we forget that, we have TWO WOMEN MUSLIM CARTOONISTS to reinforce that status-quo at the WP.
Much like 'Uncle Tom's,'of the past, the two "guest" writers--SA--and G.Willow Wilson--both well-educated and well-spoken, are paraded out and interviewed about their 'place' in the (muslim women) cartoon world.
'Everybody's a (Harsh) Critic here,' it seems--especially women cartoonists who have scolded Molly Norris for supposedly making their lives as cartoonists more difficult.
G. Willow Wilson blatently scapegoats MN,who rhetorically hurt moderate Musllims like herself.
I understand Wilson's erudite position that religious extremists (of every religion)use her as an example to justify violence. Violence is a trickle-down effect, I guess, bypassing those who threaten us all.
In Cavna's "Q&A" with SA, also a Muslim woman cartoonist (just think: TWO!)from Iran, we get a quickie justification for maintaining the status-quo by reminding us (in case we've forgotten) again that she would NEVER, EVER draw the prophet; she wouldn't even THINK that THOUGHT!
Cavna asks about "republishing" (a euphemism for blogging)these "representations" to which she emphatically states NO! That would inflame extremists!
This writer infers in a scolding tone that MN has, by her cartoon alone, inflamed the extremists, single-handedly, by her own "ignorance."
Yet, like MN, I confess that I too was "ignorant" until now, about the sacred taboos regarding the prophet. MN does respect the sacred religious tenets of Islam, whether they are her own values or not.
Has anybody seen MN's cartoon in support of the veil as a private, religious decision. The caption of her cartoon is: "Support the veil; ban Couture!"
Molly Norris is an independent soul; she has integrity. I know this personally: she would never agree to anybody's agenda, just to appease them. MN's agenda is her own: she can't be coerced or pigeon-holed or stereotyped.

MN acts on what she believes is right in her heart: so she apologized--not just out of fear, but because it was right, and she was wrong.
Unfortunately, 'Everybody is a critic' lately; especially those who has their own agendas for her.

Unfortunately, MN has been given only two choices: martyr or scapegoat, it seems. Either she must martyr herself for the cause, or die trying.

Ironically, many artists have remained silent. Those whose work she has supported; and, those whose rights she has protected.

Where are they now?

It takes a brave soul to live in this paradoxical world.

Posted by: frontporchtalker | July 21, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

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