Last May, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris proposed an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” as a protest against Muslim efforts to impose self-censorship. She got a lot of publicity, but soon backed off, presumably because of threats of violence, saying, “I regret that I made my cartoon the way I made it.”
Her recantation, however, was not sufficient to appease radical Muslim clerics. Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been in the public eye in recent months, has put Ms. Norris on an execution hit list:
Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – the radical who has also been cited as inspiring the Fort Hood, Tex., massacre and the plot by two New Jersey men to kill U.S. soldiers – singled out artist Molly Norris as a “prime target,” saying her “proper abode is hellfire.”
FBI officials have notified Norris and warned her they consider it a “very serious threat.” …
“The medicine prescribed by the Messenger of Allah is the execution of those involved,” writes Awlaki, 39, a Las Cruces, N.M.-born American citizen.
“A soul that is so debased, as to enjoy the ridicule of the Messenger of Allah, the mercy to mankind; a soul that is so ungrateful towards its lord that it defames the Prophet of the religion Allah has chosen for his creation does not deserve life, does not deserve to breathe the air.”
What was most striking to me about this news story was the reaction of the authorities:
“We understand the absolute seriousness of a threat from an Al Qaeda-inspired magazine and are attempting to do everything in our power to assist the individuals on that list to effectively protect themselves and change their behavior to make themselves less of a target,” [the FBI’s assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Seattle, David] Gomez said.
I hope that last clause doesn’t mean what I think it does. Ms. Norris has already “changed her behavior,” but it doesn’t seem to matter. I think we need to change their behavior, not ours.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
I think it’s quite likely the FBI is advising people to vary their routines so that it is difficult for would-be attackers to target them.
It’s too late to change their behavior to avoid the wrath of the head-choppers; they don’t seem to remove people from such lists.
I’ve done a bit of anti-terrorist work, and have always been careful to keep my name off it for exactly that reason. (Less concerned about my personal safety than I am for my family.)
I sincerely hope that interpretation is correct. Still, I think that our policy should focus on changing our enemies’ behavior, not ours.