In today’s Star Tribune Katherine Kersten tells the story of the cartoonist formerly known as Molly Norris. Norris is the former Seattle Weekly cartoonist who he drew a lighthearted cartoon of a poster announcing “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” Tongue firmly in cheek, Kersten recalls, she named the day’s sponsor as a nonexistent group: “Citizens against Citizens against Humor.”
Everything about Molly Norris is “former” because she’s “gone ghost” on the advice of the FBI. That is, she has changed her name and identity and abandoned her livelihood because of a fatwa issued against her by Anwar al-Awlaki. Seattle is unsafe for cartoonists who blaspheme against the tenets of Islam. Norris is now in her very own cartoonist protection program. For some reason, however, we haven’t heard much about Molly Norris. It’s almost as though our media seek to abet her transition to the status of a nonperson.
Mark Steyn suggests that If you want to measure the decline in western civilization’s sense of self-preservation, dip into the archives dating back to 1989 to revisit the outrage expressed by Salman Rushdie’s fellow London literati at what was being done to Rushdie, then compare it with the feeble passivity reflected in the statement of Norris’s Seatlle Weekly colleagues commenting on her disappearance: “There’s no more Molly.”
“There is no more Molly”? Steyn asks: “That’s all the gutless pussies of The Seattle Weekly can say?” Steyn cites James Taranto on the silence of the much sought-after Ramadan-banquet constitutional scholar Barack Obama: “Now Molly Norris, an American citizen, is forced into hiding because she exercised her right to free speech. Will President Obama say a word on her behalf? Does he believe in the First Amendment for anyone other than Muslims?”
Steyn comments: “Given [Obama’s] highly selective enthusiasms, you can hardly blame a third of Americans for figuring their president must be Muslim. In a way, that’s the least pathetic explanation: The alternative is that he’s just a craven squish. Which is odd considering he is, supposedly, the most powerful man in the world.”
Yet the seeds of craven squishiness could be seen in the Rushdie affair itself. In his 1990 book The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah and the West, Daniel Pipes provided what has turned out to be a prescient analysis. In the book’s chapter 10, for example, Pipes addressed “Iran’s shadow in the West”:
The Satanic Verses affair exposed a reluctance among Western governments, writers and booksellers to fight very hard. It seems scarcely believable, but the West, which had so much greater resources than Iran, especially an Iran recovering from almost a decade of war, ran scared of Tehran. How was it that the American, British, French and German governments could be intimidated by a state possessing little more than clearly defined goals and strength of will?
Pipes found two factors that were most critical: the influence of local fundamentalist Muslims and the fear of Iranian retaliation: “Tehran acted with the determination of an extremist, the tactics of a rug merchant, and the flexibility of a guerilla. In brief, it had exactly those qualities most effective for confronting the West.” It understates matters considerable to say that the situation has not improved since 1990.
The current (October) issue of Commentary (not yet online) features Daniel Pipes’s essay “Two Decades of the Rushdie Rules.” In it he charts the course we have traced since 1990 and deduces that “it culminates in full application of the Sharia” in the West. Pipes concludes: “The yin of Western weakness, in short, has met with the yang of islamist assertion. Defenders of Western civilization must fight not just Islamists but also the multiculturalists who enable them and the leftists who ally with them.” The saga of Molly Norris occurred too recently to find its way into Pipes’s essay, but it fits squarely within his thesis.
I found Steyn’s comments via RealClearPolitics and borrowed his heading for this post.
UPDATE: Gates of Vienna raises some questions about the gist of the Molly Norris story.