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Yale University criticized for NOT printing Mohammed cartoons

Last week I told you that Yale University Press had decided NOT to include reprints of the infamous 12 Mohammed cartoons in a book about the cartoons. The University is taking heat from The American Association of University Professors who issued a statement stating,

“We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands.” That is effectively the new policy position at Yale University Press, which has eliminated all visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad from Jytte Klausenâ??s new book The Cartoons That Shook the World. Yale made the unusual decision not only to suppress the twelve 2005 Danish cartoons that sparked organized protests in many countries but also historical depictions of Muhammed like a 19th-century print by Gustave Doré. They are not responding to protests against the book; they and a number of their consultants are anticipating them and making or recommending concessions beforehand.

Community Comments

#1 Ben Rankel
@ 12:42 pm

Not printing the images certainly seems like an easy way out.

#2 Yale Office of Public Affairs
@ 12:44 pm

Statement by Yale University Press

Yale University Press will publish The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Jytte Klausen, this November. The Press hopes that her excellent scholarly treatment of the Danish cartoon controversy will be read by those seeking deeper understanding of its causes and consequences.

After careful consideration, the Press has declined to reproduce the September 30, 2005 Jyllands-Posten newspaper page that included the cartoons, as well as other depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that the author proposed to include.

The original publication in 2005 of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad led to a series of violent incidents, and repeated violent acts have followed republication as recently as June 2008, when a car bomb exploded outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing eight people and injuring at least thirty. The next day Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombing, calling it revenge for the â??insulting drawings.â?

Republication of the cartoonsâ??not just the original printing of them in Denmarkâ??has repeatedly resulted in violence around the world. More than two hundred lives have been lost, and hundreds more have been injured. It is noteworthy that, at the time of the initial crisis over the cartoons in 2005â??2006, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe declined to print them, as did every major newspaper in the United Kingdom.

The publishing of the book raised the obvious question of whether there remains a serious threat of violence if the cartoons were reprinted in the context of a book about the controversy. The Press asked the University for assistance on this question.

The University consulted both domestic and international experts on behalf of the Press. Among those consulted were counterterrorism officials in the United States and in the United Kingdom, U.S. diplomats who had served as ambassadors in the Middle East, foreign ambassadors from Muslim countries, the top Muslim official at the United Nations, and senior scholars in Islamic studies. The experts with the most insight about the threats of violence repeatedly expressed serious concerns about violence occurring following publication of either the cartoons or other images of the Prophet Muhammad in a book about the cartoons.

Ibrahim Gambari, under-secretary-gGeneral of the United Nations and senior adviser to the secretary-general, the highest ranking Muslim at the United Nations, stated, â??You can count on violence if any illustration of the Prophet is published. It will cause riots I predict from Indonesia to Nigeria.â?

Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed, dean of the Under-Secretaries-general, under-secretary-general of the United Nations, and special adviser to the secretary-general, informed us, â??These images of Muhammad could and would be used as a convenient excuse for inciting violent anti-American actions.â?

Marcia Inhorn, professor of anthropology and international affairs and chair of the Council on Middle East Studies at Yale, said, â??I agree completely with the other expert opinions Yale has received. If Yale publishes this book with any of the proposed illustrations, it is likely to provoke a violent outcry.â?

Given the quantity and quality of the expert advice Yale received, the author consented, with reluctance, to publish the book without any of these visual images.

Yale and Yale University Press are deeply committed to freedom of speech and expression, so the issues raised here were difficult. The University has no speech code, and the response to â??hate speechâ? on campus has always been the assertion that the appropriate response to hate speech is not suppression but more speech, leading to a full airing of views. The Press would never have reached the decision it did on the grounds that some might be offended by portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad. Indeed, Yale University Press has printed books in the past that included images of the Prophet. The decision rested solely on the expertsâ?? assessments that there existed a substantial likelihood of violence that might take the lives of innocent victims.

#3 Henry Clausner
@ 1:56 pm

just print them and stop the theatrics we can all move on from this..”we got things to do”

#4 Phil Tograph
@ 2:35 pm

So much for freedom of expression. By not printing these cartoons the terrorists will abandon any plans to destroy the USA ? I don’t think so. These excuses by Yale are as weak as water.

#5 Mike Peterson
@ 4:08 pm

I have opposed publication of the Muhammed cartoons because they were an obvious and purposeful attempt to offend conservative Muslims, and I suspect the motivation of the original publication.

That said, if you’re going to publish a discussion of the cartoons, it is ridiculous not to include the cartoons under discussion. If this were a more wide-ranging discussion of Muslim sensitivities in general — for instance, including discussions of “The Satanic Verses” and the education of women in Afghanistan — I could see a chapter of the book that discussed the cartoons without reproducing them.

But an entire book about the cartoons needs the cartoons. I mean, Christian please!

#6 Carl Moore
@ 5:53 pm

Allowing the fear of Muslim retaliation to dictate what you will publish and what you won’t, is intellectual cowardice and shameful. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the publishing business.

#7 Steve Greenberg
@ 7:57 pm

At the very least, Yale University Press should include many URL listings, throughout the book, of where to see all the images online.

That said, I wouldn’t spend any money to buy the book since it lacks any of the images it writes about. I wouldn’t buy a book about the art of Matisse that had zero images, either.

#8 Bosch Fawstin
@ 4:43 pm

In tribute to Yale’s cowardice, here’s my take on Mohammed.

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