From The New York Times:
By BRIAN STELTER
Published: September 16, 2010
A cartoonist in Seattle who promoted an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” last spring is now in hiding after her life was threatened by Islamic extremists.
The cartoonist, Molly Norris, has changed her name and has stopped producing work for a local alternative newspaper, Seattle Weekly, according to the newspaper’s editor, Mark D. Fefer.
Mr. Fefer declined an interview request Thursday, citing “the sensitivity of the situation.” But in a letter to readers about Ms. Norris on Wednesday, he said that “on the insistence of top security specialists at the F.B.I., she is, as they put it, ‘going ghost’: moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity.”
The F.B.I. declined to comment on the case.
Ms. Norris attracted attention after she published a poster on the Internet in April satirically proposing that people draw figures of the Prophet Muhammad on May 20.
She indicated that the proposal was a protest of censorship by Comedy Central, which edited out references to Muhammad from an episode of “South Park” that month. That episode also triggered threats from extremists. Islam forbids depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
In 2005, a Dutch cartoonist named Kurt Westergaard published a depiction of Muhammad that led to multiple death threats and alleged assassination attempts. He was presented an award this month for freedom of speech by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
The poster by Ms. Norris spread on the Internet and spawned Facebook groups both for and against the idea. She quickly tried to tamp down the controversy, apologizing to Muslims and at one point joking that the event should be renamed “Everybody Draw Al Gore Day.” The protest movement continued in the spring largely without her involvement.
In July, Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Yemeni-American cleric who is accused of ties to Al Qaeda, said in a document published on the Internet that Ms. Norris “should be taken as a prime target of assassination,” according to the NEFA Foundation, a private group that monitors extremist Web sites, which translated the document.
Mr. Awlaki stated that Ms. Norris and other unnamed people in the United States and Europe “are expressing their hatred of the Messenger of Islam through ridicule.” In a controversial step, the Obama administration this year authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to kill Mr. Awlaki, who is in hiding.
Seattle Weekly started to publish cartoons by Ms. Norris about two months ago. Her last cartoon appeared in the Sept. 8 issue.
Ms. Norris did not respond to e-mail messages on Thursday. Her personal Web site has been taken offline.
Michael Cavna, a writer for Comic Riffs, a Washington Post blog about comics, said that he contacted her on Thursday and that she verified Mr. Fefer’s version of events.
Mr. Fefer wrote that Ms. Norris had likened her situation “to cancer — it might basically be nothing, it might be urgent and serious, it might go away and never return, or it might pop up again when she least expects it.”