A Christian expert on Islam is not surprised that the Seattle cartoonist behind “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!” was threatened by extremists and forced into hiding.
In fact, Dr. William Wagner, author of “How Islam Plans to Change the World,” says intimidation is one of radical Islam’s most effective tools.
“They (radical Muslims) are constantly looking for persons who seem to go against Islam and then threaten them,” says Wagner, a long-time Southern Baptist who currently serves as president of Olivet University in San Francisco.
Extremists used the same tactic to keep newspapers from republishing the Danish cartoons in 2006 and to force Comedy Central into censoring a “South Park” episode with the Muslim prophet Muhammad earlier this year.
“These threats will continue not because of an increased number of those opposing Islam but because they have discovered that it is a good method to put the opposition on their heels and at the same time to give more media attention to their goals,” says Wagner.
Last Wednesday, Seattle Weekly editor-in-chief Mark Fefer announced in the paper that cartoonist Molly Norris was in hiding because of death threats received for mocking the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Based on the advice of the FBI, Norris will relocate, change her name and no longer appear in the paper, Fefer wrote.
“You may have noticed that Molly Norris’ comic is not in the paper this week. That’s because there is no more Molly,” he explained. “She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program – except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab.”
A cleric in Yemen associated with al-Qaeda, Anwar Al-Awlaki, had issued a fatwa (religious ruling) against Norris that appeared in the July issue of an al-Qaeda-linked magazine. For most Muslims, it is blasphemous to depict their prophet.
Ironically, however, Norris’ cartoon for “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” did not depict the Muhammad. Her cartoon featured colorful objects, including tea cups, handbag, and spools of thread, under the headline: “Will the real likeness of the prophet Mohammed please stand up?!”
Her cartoon was much gentler than the images that her “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” inspired on a Facebook page, which contained many offensive cartoons. The Facebook page with the Muhammad images even caused Pakistan to temporarily ban the social networking site.
Norris had originally started the annual day to protest Comedy Central’s censor of “South Park” after a Muslim group threatened violence. The 49-year-old cartoonist wanted to protest the network to defend free speech instead of bowing to their threats.
According to a Zogby survey, 71 percent of American adults also disagreed with the network’s censorship of the 201st episode of “South Park.”
“The Seattle cartoonist who dared to suggest making fun of Muhammad is experiencing what many others have gone through who have spoken against Islam,” says Wagner, who served as a missionary for nearly three decades.
“Since radical Muslims have discovered that such publicity works for their advantage, they are using this effectively worldwide to get their way in both large and small incidents,” he adds.
In 2006, a series of Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad caused protests and riots throughout the world, particularly in cities with large Muslim population. One of the 12 cartoons originally published in the Jullands-Posten in 2005 depicted the Muslim prophet wearing a bomb as a turban with a lit fuse.
Although the cartoons did not stir any strong reaction immediately after their initial publication, they did a few months later when they were reprinted in several other European newspapers.
Dozens of people died as a result of Muhammad cartoon protests, including those in Nigeria, Libya and Pakistan. Churches in Lebanon and Nigeria were also attacked during the riots.