Commentary: Terrorism claims a cartoonist's freedom

Terrorist intimidation has just cost a Seattle cartoonist her freedom. Her crime: exercising her First Amendment rights.

That's Seattle, as in the United States. There doesn't seem to be a Seattle in Yemen.

Molly Norris, whose work appears in the Seattle Weekly, gained international attention last spring after she drew a mock promotion of an imaginary event, "Everbody Draw Mohammed Day." The spoof poster, published on Facebook, depicted various inanimate objects — including a coffee cup and a domino — each claiming to be the true likeness of the founder of Islam.

Norris drew it as a satirical comment on Comedy Central's censorship of two South Park episodes in which cartoon characters refer to another character — inside a bear costume — as Muhammad. Comedy Central backed away from those episodes because of death threats from radical Muslims.

The poster proposed "Draw Mohammed Day" to — in its own words — "defend a little something our country is famous for ... the First Amendment."

Taken seriously by many, the fictitious event went viral. Pakistan — one of the world's largest countries — has responded by shutting down Facebook within its borders. Anwar al-Awlaki, a fugitive U.S.-born cleric, has issued a fatwa calling for Norris' death.

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