DRAWING MUHAMMAD: Molly Norris and Zachary Chesser, six months after 'South Park'
It's quite the twist to consider now, but several years ago, Zachary Chesser and Molly Norris might have been equally likely to send a fan letter to "South Park."
This past summer, Norris -- the Seattle artist whose poster sparked May's "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" -- characterized herself to Comic Riffs as having a fun-loving, "frat-boy" sense of humor. And Chesser -- the jailed former George Mason University student who earlier this year posted threatening content about "South Park's" creators -- was a fan of the animated Comedy Central show prior to his conversion to Islam, reports my Post colleague Tara Bahrampour in today's probing article on Chesser.
It was "South Park's" attempts to satirize the Islamic prophet Muhammad, of course, that spurred both Chesser and Norris to react online in April.
Chesser, a contributor to the pro-jihad site RevolutionMuslim.com, posted an image of freshly slain filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (whose work was critical of Islam) and wrote:"This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to" "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone if they skewered Muhammad in their work. Parker and Stone subsequently said that Comedy Central edited "South Park's" attempts to satirize Muhammad.
Moved to comment in cartoon form, Norris created her "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" poster art and publicized it as an act of support for Parker and Stone -- before telling Comic Riffs just days later that she was retreating from the international social-media movement spawned by her illustration.
More than six months later, the acts of Norris and Chesser are still very much with us in the Washington region.
Chesser, 20, of Northern Virginia pleaded guilty in federal court two weeks ago to charges of supporting Somali terrorists and threatening Stone and Parker, The Post reported.
Meanwhile, Norris's creative presence continues to be felt: Last Thursday, one of her original illustrations was on view at the "Cartoons & Cocktails" event at the National Press Club Ballroom in Northwest Washington. Norris's artwork, captioned "America Sucks: Thanksgiving," and another cartoon -- by missing Sri Lankan editorial cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda -- were auctioned off together for $550, with proceeds benefitting the Cartoonists Rights Network International, a representative says.
So a half-year after they both invoked "South Park," the lives of Chesser and Norris have turned in astonishing ways:
Chesser faces as much as 30 years in prison for terrorism-related acts; for her cartoon, Norris faces perhaps a life sentence of shielding her identity after being placed on an execution hit list -- what Norris termed a "fatwa" to Comic Riffs -- by Anwar al-Awlaki, the pro-jihadist Yemeni American cleric whom the Obama administration has ordered assassinated. (On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Yemen will put al-Awlaki on trial in absentia.)
Chesser chose to post "under the nom de guerre Abu Talhah al-Amrikee ('the American father of Talhah,' a reference to Chesser's newborn son), the Post reports; Norris is in the process of assuming a pseudonym, if she hasn't done so already.
Chesser has now renounced terrorism, says his attorney; Norris renounced the global social-media movement spawned by her cartoon, she told Comic Riffs.
So Chesser will spend decades in prison, and "Molly Norris" artwork probably will continue to surface even though the artist will no longer be named Molly Norris.
Meanwhile, the "South Park" creators remain mum on the matter. (A publicist for the show tells Comic Riffs that Parker and Stone continue to decline comment.) And their employer, Viacom -- which sponsored a Mall rally to restore sanity and/or fear -- also declines to comment.
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| November 2, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories: General, The Political Cartoon | Tags: Comedy Central, Matt Stone, Molly Norris, South Park, Trey Parker, Zachary Adam Chesser
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