A U.S. cartoonist who proposed an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” last spring went into a hiding after receiving threats from Islamic extremists, U.S. media reported.
Molly Norris, from Seatle, went into hiding and changed her name and her identity with the help of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Ms Norris was "moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity," the Seattle Weekly reported. "She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program," it said.
The New York Times reported that Mark D. Fefer, Seattle Weekly’s editor, declined an interview request to report on Norris’ current status citing “the sensitivity of the situation.”
The Seattle Weekly, which ran Norris' comics, said yesterday that "on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, "going ghost": moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity."
Norris is not responding to emails and has her personal web site taken offline.
According to Fefer, Norris had liked her situation to cancer saying “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.”
Norris published a poster on the internet in April and satirically proposed drawing figures of the Prophet Mohammad on May 20.
Her proposal came to protest censorship by Comedy Central, which edited out references to Islam’s prophet from an episode of “South Park” during that month. The South Park episode unleashed ire and threats from Muslim extremists.
Norris tried to tamp down the cartoon’s fiery situation by apologizing to Muslims, and at one point joking that the event should be renamed “Everybody Draw Al Gore Day.”
Norris also created Facebook groups both for and against the idea, but protests continued in the spring largely without her involvement.
Despite Norris’ apology, Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Yemeni-American cleric who is accused of al-Qaeda ties said internet statement published in July that 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.
The Obama administration this year authorized the C.I.A to kill Awlaki.
Awlaki perceived Norris and other unnamed people in the Western world as anti-Islam and “are expressing their hatred of the Messenger of Islam through ridicule.”
The Seattle Weekly started to publish cartoons by Norris about two months ago. Her last cartoon appeared on September 8.
In 2005, a Dutch cartoonist named Kurt Westergaard published a depiction of Prophet Mohammad 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.