US cartoonist distances herself from Facebook group, apologizes to Muslims

Heba El-Sherif
4 Min Read

CAIRO: American cartoonist Molly Noriss distanced herself from a Facebook group calling for an international day to draw Prophet Mohamed, a campaign that was inspired by one of her cartoons.

On her web page, she apologized to Muslims worldwide and insisted that she “never started a Facebook page; I never set up any place for people to send drawings to and I never received any drawings.

“I apologize to people of Muslim faith and ask that this ‘day’ be called off,” Norris said on her website

In reaction to Comedy Central’s decision to censor an episode of animated sitcom South Park, which depicted the Prophet in a bear suit, Norris drew a cartoon and proposed holding a “Draw Mohammed Day” on a radio show last month.

“I was really upset about the censorship. It sent a bad message to America,” she was quoted as saying in Britain’s The Times.

“The West cherishes the idea of freedom of expression, irrespective of people’s individual beliefs,” former editor of Ikhwan Online Ahmed Bahnasawy told Daily News Egypt.

Bahnasawy explained that Norris is among many who fear Islam because of the negative stereotypes it has garnered in western media. He suggested that her proposition to collect caricatures depicting the Prophet was based on “lack of proper knowledge about Islam”.

“She didn’t know anything about the Prophet and so she wanted everyone to imagine what he would look like.”

At the time, South Park creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone came under fire for their depiction of the Prophet, which Muslims deem offensive.

On her website Friday, Norris said: “My cartoon was the beginning and end of expressing my personal views about Comedy Central’s South Park censorship. If I had wanted my one-off cartoon to be the basis for a worldwide movement to draw Mohammed, then at this moment I should be thrilled … but instead I am horrified.”

The Seattle-based cartoonist said her satirical sketch was taken seriously, “hijacked and made viral.”

On Thursday, several Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarians called on Muslim countries to take a stance.

While Egyptians’ responses to the group have remained minimal, an international Facebook group under the name “Against ‘Everybody draw Mohammed Day’” attracted around 126,427 members.

In Pakistan, angry protestors took to the streets on Thursday and the foreign ministry blocked access to Facebook and Youtube, slamming the publication as “blasphemous".

In 2005, a caricature depicting Prophet Mohamed as a suicide bomber triggered outrage across the Muslim world.

While media watchdogs have defended the publication of the cartoon and reprinting it in the name of press freedom, some Arab nations issued diplomatic sanctions as a response. Some people lobbied for boycott campaigns while others issued death threats

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper where the cartoon was first published, later apologized for offending Muslims but maintained that it was adhering to Danish law.

In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered after he released a documentary which criticized the treatment of women in Islam.

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