'Draw Mohammed Day' cartoonist goes into hiding after FBI tip-off

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The Independent US

A cartoonist who created a religious storm with a tongue-in-cheek encouragement to draw images of the Muslim Prophet Mohamed has gone into hiding after a threat to her safety.

Molly Norris, who published an illustration in April on her website entitled "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day", was told by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to "go ghost", according to the Seattle Weekly newspaper, to which was a regular contributor.

"On the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI," Ms Norris is "moving, changing her name and essentially wiping away her identity," a Seattle Weekly report said on Thursday. The Seattle office of the FBI did not return a call to comment on the case.

Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric linked to al-Qa'ida and thought to be hiding in Yemen, said this summer on a website that Ms Norris was a "prime target". The social satirist originally launched her mock campaign in protest at the threats of violence issued against those who paint or draw Mohamed, because to do so is considered blasphemous in Muslim culture.

The issue became a flashpoint five years ago when a caricature of the Prohet by Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard triggered sometimes violent protests. The US television cartoon series South Park also caused controversy and received threats earlier this year after it depicted Mohamed wearing a bear suit.

Yesterday, Danish police said that a man who was injured in an explosion at a Copenhagen hotel as he prepared a letter bomb was probably intending to attack the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that published Westergaard's cartoon. Lors Dukayev, of Chechen origin, was hurt as the device went off as he tried to assemble it in the bathroom of the hotel.