MOLLY NORRIS UPDATE: U.S. Muslim leader defends rights of both 'Draw Muhammad' cartoonist, targeted cleric al-Aulaqi
This week, The American Muslim published a petition to support such cartoonists as "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" illustrator Molly Norris and "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The petition, titled "A Defense of Free Speech by American and Canadian Muslims," says:
"We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible."
In upholding the First Amendment, the petition affirms "the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves."
The signees say that though they are upset by recent anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment in America, "we are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur'an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed."
One of the petition's signees is Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is one of the nation's largest Muslim civil-liberties advocacy groups. Bukhari, who this year has come to know Norris personally, spoke to Comic Riffs about the new petition.
"What we are doing locally is talking to Muslim community leaders," says Bukhari, 30, who is Muslim. "We have no tolerance for joking that may be seen a threat to [Norris]. We are telling leaders: If they receive a threat that even seems to be joking, it should be reported."
Norris went into hiding and changed her identity this month at the FBI's urging.
Norris drew the "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" cartoon in April in response to Comedy Central's editing of its program "South Park" and the animated show's attempts to depict Muhammad. After her cartoon began to spark international controversy in April, Norris retreated from the Facebook-spread movement -- and sought meetings with Islamic leaders in Seattle.
"She reached out to our community," Bukhari says. "Over time, she and I became friends. She's one of the most sincere people I've ever met."
Several months ago, FBI officials alerted Norris to what they were treating as a "very serious threat," according to reports. At that time, Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, said that Norris was a "prime target" for execution and that her "proper abode is hellfire."
Of al-Aulaqi's words, Bukhari says: "I really wish the guy would [retract his words]. This is no way to live [for Norris]. It takes away a human right." (Bukhari also says that technically, Al-Aulaqi'S statements did not constitute an actual legal fatwa. He refers to the American cleric's words as "a death threat.")
Responding to reports that President Obama has ordered the killing of al-Aulaqi, Bukhari says: "That order shouldn't be sent out. You've got to have due process. That's a civil right we have as Americans."
Al-Aulaqi, a New Mexico-born 39-year-old, has been called arguably the highest-profile English-speaking supporter of violent jihad. He has been linked to the recent Times Square bombing attempt and reportedly inspired Texas's Fort Hood massacre.
As for Norris's "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" cartoon, Bukhari says: "If someone had made the same poster involving blacks or Jews or Asians, no one would have been interested. Why does [an Islamic] poster challenge the right to free speech?"
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| September 24, 2010; 5:15 PM ET
Categories: The Political Cartoon | Tags: Arsalan Bukhari, Everybody Draw Muhammad Day, Molly Norris, South Park
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