It should be front-page news in every newspaper in the country: Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris has given up her job, her home, and even her identity because of death threats for Islamic supremacists. That Islamic jihadists can force an American citizen into hiding for exercising her freedom of speech is bad enough; that her cause has aroused only indifference from the media and the nation’s leading officials is even worse.
Norris was a popular cartoonist for the Seattle Weekly. Her life changed forever a few months ago when she announced “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” on Facebook. It was a lark, but with a serious point about 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?
And now Norris herself has become a living illustration of how right her point was in the first place, and yet the political and media elites are not standing with her. “On the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI,” the Seattle Weekly explained, “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.”
This is 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 Koran-burner Terry Jones $180,000 for security costs for the Koran-burning event that he ultimately called off after a blizzard of international publicity, all negative – despite the fact that they never bothered to warn Jones beforehand that he would be footing the bill.
Molly Norris’s cause should be taken up by all free people – not least the President of the United States. Obama could have explained that human beings control their own reactions to things. If Muslims chose yet again to riot and murder because of Terry Jones or Molly Norris, that would be a choice they would be making out of an unlimited array of other choices. Instead, Western authorities have fallen into the Islamic supremacists’ trap and are starting to behave in just the way they want them to: thinking that they must not do certain things, because if they do, there will be violence from Muslims. Yet that violence is in every case solely the responsibility of the perpetrator, not of anyone else.
Obama could have said that the idea that Molly Norris would have to give up her career and live in hiding because of cartoons is unconscionable. He could have told the Islamic world that cartoons depicting Muhammad did not harm Muslims, and that the willingness of some Muslims to commit murder over such depictions was the only thing that made people care to draw Muhammad in the first place.
Obama could also have said that to threaten people with death because of cartoons was destructive to free speech and hence 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 for exercising their freedom of speech would be given full round-the-clock protection — and that if violent protests and riots over cartoons broke out in areas where American troops were deployed, those troops would put down those riots and protect the innocent to the fullest possible extent.
Apparently when Muslims behave with violent irrationality, Obama thinks that it is entirely the responsibility of non-Muslims to clean up the mess they make. In these dark days we don’t have any leaders who will stand up for the freedom of expression, explaining its importance as a bulwark against tyranny. Molly Norris, wherever she is, and the embattled free people of the United States, deserve better.