Dear Anwar al-Awlaki, Your religion sucks

By Duganz

This post could really use a picture of Seattle-based Molly Norris. I just didn’t think it ethical to post one because she is now in hiding on the advice of the FBI due to threats by stupid, misguided fools who want to kill her.

They want her dead for a joke she made at the expense of the Prophet Muhammad––also not pictured… for, um, obvious reasons.

I will however post a picture of this guy: His name is Anwar al-Awlaki, and he’s a Yemeni-American cleric who is alleged to have inspired the Fort Hood shooting, among other attacks. He’s also the one who put Norris on a “hit list.”

He’s a bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling.

Back in April Norris drew a cartoon lampooning the fact that certain (not all; let’s not generalize) Muslims become so angry at depictions of the prophet Muhammad, which Islam kind-of-but-not-really forbids. This was at the time when Comedy Central was punking out because South Park was making jokes about Muhammad depictions. So Norris drew a cartoon declaring May 20th “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”

WARNING!!!!!! Clicking “Continue Reading” will lead you to the dreaded cartoon.




That’s it. That’s what makes someone like Anwar al-Awlaki wish death upon a fellow human being: a cartoon cherry claiming to be Muhammad.

In May Norris told the Seattle PI that she hadn’t meant for, or thought of her cartoon going viral on the net, but it happened that way and Norris went from unknown Seattle illustrator to the focus of religious hate.

And now she’s a ghost. She’s changed her name, left Seattle, and will have a new life somewhere else. She told Seattle Weekly that the threat on her existence is like cancer, “[It] might basically be nothing, it might be urgent and serious, it might go away and never return, or it might pop up again when she least expects it.”

Above I made a point to not generalize about Islam, or Muslims. I don’t want anyone to believe that I think that 99 percent of Muslims are anything like Anwar al-Awlaki. I’m reiterating this because I’m about to say…

Dear Anwar al-Awlaki:

Your religion sucks.

Yes, he sucks as a human being, but his religion sucks just as much if not more. Again, I’m not saying all Muslims or all of Islam sucks––just his version, the one where you get to terrorize a small time cartoonist.

Find me a jerk, and I can persuade him; find me a jerk with religion, and I am defeated. Once someone believes that their actions are chosen and led by God, it’s game over for logic or reason. I’ve been told that the non-religious like myself scare people because what is morality without God?

This: If I commit a violent act, I cannot blame God. It is my act alone because I do not believe in a guiding hand of God (or of the economy, but that’s a separate post), so I avoid causing ill in the world to avoid personal guilt. But people like al-Awlaki revel in that their evil is not evil, it is the righteous will of Gawd(!). They have no need for a conscience.

Therefore, al-Awlaki’s religion sucks, and it is our responsibility to say that. To sit back and say nothing – even here in our little corner of Montana, on a little blog about politics and culture – we do a great injustice to one another. The same injustice best embodied in Pastor Martin Niemöller’s staggeringly brilliant quote about Nazis:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Though Molly Norris lived in Seattle, though most if not all people reading this have never met her (and now never will), we must stand up for her. If we do not, then our First Amendment right to free speech is worthless.

Go post her cartoon on Facebook, and Twitter, and your own blog, and MySpace and your front door. Show it to friends and family. Laugh at it. Make it into a t-shirt you wear proudly. And on May 20th, 2011 scribble as many drawings of Muhammad as you wish (or do it now), because tolerance and respect are different. I tolerate Anwar al-Awlaki’s right to have his misguided, stupid beliefs about moral and spiritual matters, but I do not respect them at all.

And by the way, this is my favorite depiction of Muhammad:Get it? A joke. Bring on the threats.


  1. petetalbot

    Great, Duganz, now 4&20 (and its contributors?) are targeted. Thanks a bunch.

    Seriously, I understand your sentiments here. And you’ve gone to great lengths to separate the radical Muslims from the rank-and-file.

    I must add that my dealings with Muslims from many past travels have been nothing but friendly. (Well, one guy in Malaysia shortly after the first Gulf War, with a “Long Live Saddam Hussein” t-shirt, gave me a hard time. But that’s out of hundreds of Muslims I’ve met.)

    I’ve been invited into their homes, played with their kids, shared many a pot of coffee …

    Every religion has radical elements that need to be condemned. I try not to paint religions with too broad a stroke, though. They all have their nut cases but there are honorable believers, too, who do good work.

  2. Molly Norris has become a non-person on the advice of the FBI and at her own expense. All because our government cannot — or will not — protect American citizens in their own country from fatwas issued by Muslim clerics 9,000 miles away. It seems to me that if we can spend trillions to blow up Muslims in their own lands, we can spend a bit less to protect Molly Norris in a way that lets her live a normal life in her home city under her own name.

    When was the last time that a member of the Christian clergy put out a contract of the life of someone in a foreign land who drew an unflattering picture of Jesus?

    • To be fair filmmaker Kevin Smith got several death threats pertaining to his depiction of “Buddy Christ” in “Dogma.”

      • Death threats from whom? From Christian clergymen who were sentencing Smith to death for religious crimes? Or from a few individuals who take their religion too seriously?

        It’s one thing for an individual to get so worked-up over what he considers an offense against his religion that he threatens someone’s life. It’s quite another thing for a clergyman to issue a sentence of death that is sanctioned by his church.

        The fatwa against Molly Norris is a terrorist act. And the FBI is assisting the terrorist who issued the fatwa. I’d say Bin Laden is winning.

        • The Polish Wolf

          Actually, the closest thing to a centralized ‘Muslim Church’ resembling the Catholic Vatican, Al-Azhar University, has come out against these sorts of Fatwas, and even against wearing the Burqa. Problem is, the amount of centralization in Islam is much lower than in Catholicism.

          • mr benson

            Yeah, don’t forget to toss in cutting noses off women, or genital mutilation of women, or the other treatments of women in Islam. There really is no moral equivalency of post enlightenment christianity and current Islam, just as I said earlier, there really is an ability to view western civilization and its emphasis on individual rights and freedom as superior to others.

            • The Polish Wolf

              I agree with you generally, but like I said, it is important to note that the most senior, highest ranking Muslim clerics have generally abandoned these practices (though they generally refuse to repudiate killing apostates). The bigger problem is that there is no Islamic bureaucracy that can enforce progressive dogma like there is in the Catholic church.

            • JC

              “genital mutilation … There really is no moral equivalency of post enlightenment christianity “

              Circumcision???

              • The Polish Wolf

                Nope. Not even close. Circumcised infants feel pain, but they don’t remember it (unlike pre-pubescent girls), it doesn’t prevent sexual pleasure in the future, it has very little chance of causing death and has identified medical benefits (if you like having a lot of non-monogamous, unprotected sex, that is). So, while perhaps not the most enlightened practice, male circumcision is miles away from morally equivalent to female genital mutilation.

  3. The Polish Wolf

    And yet, Kevin Smith was alright – no one tried to go through with it, and Dogma was far more offensive (also, far funnier) than this cartoon. I agree about not generalizing Muslims to a point, but there is another point – most Muslims are not used to living in secular society or living as minorities. Therefore, the sensibilities of most Muslims are going to be more, well, sensitive than most Christians, who have grown up in secular society surrounded by those who disagree with them religiously. And this is true about every Muslim I’ve met – incredibly nice, but incredibly sensitive to religious issues, as well.

    Also, your take on secular morality I think a tiny bit oversimplifies one of the largest philosophical problems of the enlightenment – how do you know what is doing ill if you have no authority but reason?

    • I, ironically, believe that you should treat each person as your brother. And I don’t think you need to be told that by Jesus to know it’s right. So is my argument simple? Yup. But it’s a simple issue.

    • mr benson

      Generally, “natural law. Shouldn’t be a problem for the civilized. And no, they’re not all the same. No, the noble savage wasn’t. The light of science and reason slowly shows the way. Sacrificing virgins to the sun is no longer thought to increase the harvest.

      However, the problem of evil is far more of a problem for the superstitious than for the materialist.

  4. lizard19

    i wouldn’t be the wily reptile i am if i didn’t point out that this one person is compelling our president (and alleged constitutional lawyer) to place this theocratic asshole’s name on an assassination list.

    is killing this guy really worth throwing out the last shreds of our supposed ideals?

  5. This gets worse the more one learns about it. Read these paragraphs from the 11 July 2010 NY Daily News:

    “David Gomez, the FBI’s assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Seattle, said Norris and others were warned of the “very serious threat.”

    “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,” Gomez said.

    Norris initially grabbed headlines in April when she published a satirical cartoon on her Web site that declared May 20 “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day” as a way to mock Viacom and Comedy Central’s decision to censor an episode of “South Park” that showed the Prophet Muhammed dressed in a bear suit.

    Soon after, the topic erupted on the Web with the start of a Facebook support group for Norris. In response, Pakistan blocked access to the social networking site as a fiery pro-and-con debate raged worldwide.

    Norris eventually backed away from her cartoon and cause.

    “I regret that I made my cartoon the way I made it,” she told the Seattle-based KING 5 TV.”

    Thanks to our government, she’s been intimidated into apologizing for exercising her First Amendment rights in America (that won’t get the fatwa lifted). If she wants to recant in the belief that that will make her less of a target, that’s her choice. But if our nation can afford to spend trillions to put tens and tens of thousands of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, our nation can afford to spend a few tens of thousands of dollars to provide Norris with around the clock bodyguards.

    Equally important, is this how we’re going to respond whenever a American exercises his First Amendment rights and criticizes or satirizes a Muslim or his religion? Because if the FBI is going to tell American recipients of fatwas to change their behavior, to disappear, to give up all that they have and to live the rest of their lives in fear, then we will have granted every Muslim cleric on earth a hecklers veto on free speech in the United States. If that is where we are headed, are we too spineless a people to deserve the freedoms that we say we cherish but refuse to defend?

  6. The Polish Wolf

    I fail to see how reason can tell me that killing a particular person is wrong. It didn’t tell Stalin that killing was wrong, and he claimed to be acting on the most rational and least religious of all historical theories. The point is, you BELIEVE every person deserves certain rights, you BELIEVE that hurting others is wrong, etc. I believe the same, but I don’t pretend that I got there through enlightenment thinking. By and large, we get there through emotion – we feel disgust at violence, we feel rage at violence, whatever, and thus we deem it wrong. But its not arrived at rationally, and that is why a rational person with a different set of data to start out with may decide that murdering a million people is A-Ok. And lets face it, far more people have died in the last century for secular reasons than for religious ones.

    • “And lets face it, far more people have died in the last century for secular reasons than for religious ones.”

      That’s just intellectual dishonesty.

      “I fail to see how reason can tell me that killing a particular person is wrong.”

      I expect to learn of your real identity the next time the coffee guy gives you one shot instead of two.

      • The Polish Wolf

        Intellectual dishonesty? Hitler killed for entirely secular reasons – he believed he was making the world a better place, and he had plenty of ‘evidence’ to support this twisted view – it seemed that white people were the most productive, had advanced science the most, etc. Hitler wasn’t backed by the Catholic church, he was ignored by the Catholic church, which was carrying its some policy of non-involvement it followed in the first world war. To be fair, the same policy promoted by Lizard.

        Stalin killed even more people, and he did it for entirely reasonable reasons – he wanted to create a proletarian, powerful, industrial Russia. He succeeded: reason wins, Russia becomes a powerful industrial nation, the oppressive power structure is destroyed. But we’ll never know the true cost.

        Mao – killed at least as many as Stalin in order to bring China into the age of reason and destroy superstition. Again, a win for reason – China becomes the worlds second largest economy in fifty years, growing even faster than Russia. Again, the cost will never really be known, but in the tens of millions.

        Yes, people scientific thinking and reasoning has been a great boon for humanity. It has been so successful that the previously disruptive wars of religion have been ended, but the result has not been a world without genocide and war, as predicted by the enlightenment, but merely one where people kill one another for more rational reasons. I don’t oppose enlightenment by any means, and I am unnerved by the fact that it is largely losing ground to relativism of various kinds. But it is not a panacea, and the violence of the 20th century demonstrates it.

        Lastly, to Mr. Benson – you clearly haven’t read any Christian philosophy. Free will was always carefully maintained, by Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas. Scientific materialism, however, is rapidly eliminating the idea of free will.

          • The Polish Wolf

            It’s hard to avoid Hitler when discussion the causes of the most death and destruction in the past century.

            Also, https://4and20blackbirds.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/

            From your co-blogger, a couple weeks ago. And

            “Hitler was a mystic and we know, backed by the Catholic church.”

            From Mr. Benson, the day before my post. I thoroughly oppose bringing up Hitler in almost any circumstance, because the combination of ideologies that made up his particular vision are not half as prevalent today as people seem to think. But Mr. Benson brought it up and I felt the need to answer.

            Not to leave it at Hitler (and I suppose hoping to get more than three words in response) I provided three examples, Hitler being the least rational. Stalin and Mao clearly were aiming to extend rationality and secularism over the anciens regimes of their own countries.

        • mr benson

          “Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated”

          Not true, but; I just go to the source.

  7. mr benson

    I’ve got to channel “noodly appendage” here.

    First, the balance sheet of “the last century, being at least ten years old, is really on the side of reason. You may look at violence only, while I also consider medicine versus snake handling, nutrition or clean water versus witch doctering. If you’re talking the 20th century, Hitler was a mystic and we know, backed by the Catholic church. No one sees reason in Stalin’s actions, and communists lack the enlightenment ethic; they are post enlightenment.

    Second, fear of hell or “whosoever believeth” or “seventy virgins” are superstitious beliefs that present no real morality. Worse, the predestination and foreordainment of a good portion of Christendom removes most of what could be considered free will, at which point morality disappears altogether.

    Generally, “enlightened self interest” is the answer I give. I’d add “the ability to be moral”. Reason and science have advanced our standard of living, allowing us to not be so starving that we don’t have to destroy the neighbors and take their food. Again, triumph of science and reason over superstition in the ability to make the garden grow, keep the water clean, put a shelter over our heads, and heal the wounds and diseases the vicissitudes chance might throw our way, all are on my side of the balance sheet and all allow us to be charitable.

    There’s nothing wrong with emotion; I don’t see emotion versus reason needing debate.

  8. Canadian Kevin

    Kudos to Mr. Benson. Is that you Ian? It’s pretty simple. The world is about 4 billion years old and mankind in his present configuration is about 150,000 years old. Over the last couple of thousand years of that we have graduated from sacrificing virgins to make to crops grow and thinking the world was flat to a pretty sofisticated vision of the world thanks to science. A shrinking portion still need to suckle on the tit of fantasy to pacify themselves. The least religious areas of the world are safest and have the lowest crime rates. This radical needs to be ignored by all, quaranteened or better simply commited with lots of counselling…




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