Molly Norris was working as newspaper cartoonist in 2010 when she decided to draw a cartoon that would change – and endanger – her life. After headlines proclaimed that an episode of the TV show South Park that featured Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, had been censored by Comedy Central, Norris fought for free speech the best way she knew how: with her pen. She drew a cartoon of Muhammad on household objects like a teacup, a thimble, and a domino, and images of the work went viral online as part of a campaign called “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” Soon, Norris’s life was threatened by radical Muslims, and the FBI was warning her to disguise her appearance and take precaution. Muslim cleric Anwar Al-Awalaki issued a fatwa calling for her death, a religious decree that encourages other Muslims to carry out the killing. She has since gone into hiding under a different name, in a different place.
Norris is one of a handful of individuals living under fatwa in America today, including famed British author Salman Rushdie, Egyptian citizen and Christian convert Noni Darwish, and anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller. Though many pay for full time security, those under fatwa live in constant danger that they will lose their lives due to others’ religious beliefs.
“It is not safe, of course, not even in the West, for anyone who has a fatwa of death issued against them,” Nonie Darwish