Don't sketch the prophet, after all

Cartoonist disowns "Draw Mohammed Day" campaign

pakistan protest 311 (photo credit: ap)
pakistan protest 311
(photo credit: ap)
When she drew a poster calling for May 20 to be “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” Molly Norris sparked more uproar than she bargained for. The Seattle cartoonist soon retreated from the concept and set off for a vacation on the day itself.
“Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” was a poster Norris drew in response to threats by Muslims against cartoonists depicting the prophet Muhammad. Norris encouraged everybody to draw Muhammad on the same day, to “water down the pool of targets,” so terrorists wouldn’t be able to focus on one individual.
The event has sparked widespread debate, the largest forum for which appears to be the Facebook social networking site, where the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” page has more than 80,000 supporters and over 7,000 pictures in its photos section.
A rival Facebook page has cropped up called “AGAINST Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” and has attracted even more supporters, over 90,000.
Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee said on Thursday, “It doesn’t sound like a helpful enterprise. I would like to see people use freedom of expression in a responsible manner.
“A parallel to this is, there are some jokes you wouldn’t crack about someone’s parents in front of them. It’s not because you’re compromising freedom of speech, but because you have respect for the person you talk to,” Rosen said.
MK Arye Eldad (National Union) supports the right to depict the prophet Muhammad.“[People] should be able to say whatever they feel about Islam’s attempt to impose its religion and values on [Western] culture,” he said.
Eldad called on governments to defend their citizens from the “hatred and violence” of radical Muslims.
In response to the controversy, Pakistan on Wednesday blocked access to Facebook, a ban that is planned to last until the end of the month. YouTube, Wikipedia and other Web sites were banned as well.
It was not clear if Pakistan had intended to block access to Wikipedia. The head of the Pakistani telecommunications company Nayatel, Wahajus Siraj, said the restriction resulted from a technical glitch.
Facebook, upset by the Pakistani ban, had earlier stated: “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the freedom to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.”
Norris has emphatically disassociated herself from the Facebook page, in large text on her Web page.
“Hello, I never created a Facebook page for Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. A stranger to me did so. Thank you, Molly,” she posted. I “apologize to people of Muslim faith and ask that this ‘day’ be called off.”
“The vitriol this ‘day’ has brought out, of people who only want to draw obscene images, is offensive to Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place,” she wrote.
Norris originally conceived of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” as a response to “veiled threats against the creators of the television show South Park,” who had planned to depict Muhammad in an episode.
Aired in April, the episode was to show Muhammad wearing a bear suit. It was censored by the Comedy Central network after the Web site  posted a picture of Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who was murdered by Dutch-Moroccan Mohammed Bouyeri in November 2004 for producing the film Submission about the treatment of women in Islam.
Norris said she “made a cartoon about the television show South Park being censored,” and that her “satirical poster... was taken seriously, hijacked and made viral.”
In 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published editorial cartoons depicting Muhammad, resulting in widespread violence from the Muslim world. Danish embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran were burned in what Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen described as Denmark’s worst international relations crisis since World War II.
AP contributed to this report.