An Islamic publication — in response to news that the Seattle-based cartoonist responsible for “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” has gone underground due to a fatwa issued calling for her death by an American born cleric living in Yemen — is encouraging American and Canadian Muslims to sign onto a letter in support of free speech.
Last week, The Seattle Weekly announced that their cartoonist, Molly Norris, had “gone ghost” out of fear for her safety — changing her name and going into hiding at the FBI’s “insistence.” The impetus for her decision to essentially disappear was the content of an English language Al-Qaeda publication called “Inspire.” In it, Anwar al-Awlaki, the cleric who reportedly inspired the Fort Hood massacre, called for the execution of Norris and others for “blasphemous caricatures” of Mohammed.
The American Muslim (TAM), an Islamic publication focused on the “promotion of peace, justice, and reconciliation for all humanity,” wants to make it clear that neither they nor the majority of Muslims support what is happening to Norris.
TAM’s founder and editor, Sheila Musaji, and a small group of Muslim writers have issued a call for imams as well as Muslim writers and scholars to sign on to a document that declares, “We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.”
Jarret Brachman, a senior consultant to the U.S. government on counterterrorism, told The Daily Caller that each time moderate Muslims take a stand it helps to de-legitimize the extremists’ cause. “The letter is one building block in a wall that needs to be built by Muslims,” Brachman said. “It is not the silver bullet but it is an important step.”
Shahed Amanullah, founder and editor-in-chief of Altmuslim and one of the letter’s drafters, told TheDC that in the wake of the threats, he and the Muslim community had reached out to Norris. “What we really wanted was to continue down the road we’ve already started with her, because a lot of us have already been in touch,” Amanullah said, explaining that the letter was, in addition to being a stand for free speech, also an expression of support for Norris.
Amanullah said that in the 24 hours that the letter has been open for signatures, 50 people have signed on. “That is just the first batch,” he said, “more are going to come in.”
“We want to make it clear to her that we stand with her,” Amanullah continued. “We want to make it clear to the general public at large that even though there is a threat, it is not coming from our communities.”
NEXT: Threat against Norris serious, expert says
While the local Muslim community purports to stand with Norris, Dr. Christopher Boucek, associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Middle East Program, told TheDC that such a threat is not something to be taken lightly. “I think it is very serious and the fact that it was in an English language magazine makes it even more so. If you listen to al-Awlaki’s speeches, especially ‘The Dust will Never Settle Down,’ over and over he makes the point that the worst crime a person can commit is blasphemy, and that you need to respond to that crime,” Boucek said. “Obviously she should be concerned, as the FBI has rightly said.”
Nonetheless, Amanullah is working to fight back against the extremism that is responsible for such threats.
“I’m hoping that people who wish to target people because of their speech realize that it is becoming more and more futile,” he said.