Pakistan’s Twitter shutdown linked to ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day’ content

TWO YEARS TO THE DAY after “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” spawned global controversy, the campaign continues to have significant aftershocks.

Pakistan shut down Twitter for about eight hours Sunday, The Post’s Richard Leiby reports from Islamabad, before Prime Minister Raza Gilani intervened to end the ban and restore access. The shutdown, which was called “a high-level decision,” was prompted by Twitter’s refusal to remove content considered objectionable to Muslims, officials in Pakistan said.

“Details on the allegedly offensive tweets were unavailable,” Leiby writes, “but they apparently encouraged participation in ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,’ a campaign launched two years ago that Muslims worldwide have denounced for encouraging depictions of Islam’s prophet, which adherents consider blasphemous.”

Sunday’s shutdown is a reminder, too, of just how much has transpired since a Comedy Central show attempted to depict Muhammad in 2010:

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A Pakistani resident browses a newspaper website in Quetta on Sunday after the country's government blocked access to Twitter, saying the social-media website had refused to remove posts promoting an online event involving caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. (BANARAS KHAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

1. In April of that year, Comedy Central blocked Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s attempt to show Muhammad (using a bear suit as a guise) on ”South Park” and edited a speech about fear and intimidation, according to the show’s creators. That month, a pro-jihadist website threatened Parker and Stone.

Since then: The following year, Stone and Parker found formal acclaim by satirizing Mormonism instead of Islam, racking up nine Tony Awards (including Best Musical) for their irreverent “The Book of Mormon”

2. Soon after the website’s threat, Seattle artist Molly Norris — in a show of support for Parker and Stone — drew a cartoon that urged “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” Just days later, Norris told Comic Riffs that she was disowning her creation after it spawned Facebook campaigns to actually participate in such an event that May 20; she eventually supported sites that were against “Draw Muhammad Day.” That following summer, Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki placed Norris (as well as several other artists and editors) on an execution hit list. Norris emailed Comic Riffs to say with her characteristic humor: “Fatwas suck!”

Since then: Norris assumed a new identity after federal authorities told her they couldn’t ensure her safety, said the illustrator, who vowed to Comic Riffs that she’d continue to work as an artist. Al-Awlaki was killed last October in a U.S.-ordered drone attack.

3. Zachary Chesser was the Northern Virginia man who threatened the “South Park” creators on a pro-jihadist website in 2010.

Since then: He was arrested months later while trying to leave the country for Uganda; he reportedly planned to join an Islamic terrorist group in Somalia. In February of 2011, Chesser, then 21, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

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Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.

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