While WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is celebrating his $1 million-plus book deal on a 600-acre estate and enjoying his status as a lefty fringe hero, former cartoonist Molly Norris is in hiding.
The moral of this column is that in today's world, cartoons, if they target Islam, can be more hazardous to your health than crossing the mighty U.S. government and its allies.
Swedish and Danish authorities arrested four suspected militant Islamic jihadists last week for allegedly planning a terrorist attack before this weekend. Their target was the Jyllands-Posten news bureau in Copenhagen. In 2006, the newspaper became the target of terrorist threats after it printed controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. Authorities say the suspects arrested planned to use the same "swarm" tactics used in the 2008 Mumbai killing spree that left at least 160 people dead.
Kurt Westergaard drew a cartoon that depicted Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Last January, a Somali man wielding an ax and demanding "revenge" broke into Westergaard's home. In 2009, Danish authorities arrested three men for planning to behead Westergaard.
Like Westergaard, Jyllands-Posten Editor Flemming Rose, who commissioned the cartoons, now has round-the-clock security. I asked via e-mail how many planned attacks against his paper and cartoonists have been thwarted.
Rose answered that this latest episode represents the sixth or seventh foiled attack.
In his new book, "Tyranny of Silence," Rose explains that he asked cartoonists to submit works on Muhammad in order to stand up to "my perception of prevalent self-censorship among the Danish media" on the subject of radical Islam. Now he has a target on his back.
When we met in 2008, Rose summarized what summed up "The Cartoon Crisis." "They are basically saying, 'If you say we are violent, we are going to kill you.'"
And: "If you give in to intimidation, you will not get less intimidation, you will get more intimidation."
Back to Molly Norris. In April, the one-time Seattle Weekly cartoonist made the mistake of drawing a cartoon that called for an "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day." Norris was reacting to Comedy Central's decision to censor parts of the show "South Park" that depicted a cartoon Muhammad dressed in a bear suit -- wink, wink -- lest showing an image of the prophet offend. The network also bleeped out verbal references to Muhammad.