"Preemptive capitulation" is Roger Kimball's fitting term for cowardly surrenders to Islamist extortion, of which the latest shameful example is Yale University's purging of all images of Mohammed from a book about the uproar over the Danish cartoon images of Mohammed. I say "Yale University" rather than "Yale University Press" because Roger has done a determined investigation, which he wrote about yesterday in an eye-popping post at his Pajamas blog, Roger's Rules. Not only is it true, as Mark Steyn suggested when we discussed this on Thursday, that a sharia-based ban has been "extended that to any and all representations of Mohammed, including great works of art that have been reproduced in thousands of books over the years." It turns out that Yale's top administrators were clearly behind the purge — and with the same cravenness that infused their decision-making on the book, they are ducking Roger's inquiries into the decision-making.
Roger spoke with the author, Brandeis professor Jytte Klausen, who explained that the book, pictures and all, had been thoroughly vetted by YUP and broadly praised for its sensitivity and thoroughness — including accolades from the only Muslim member of the House of Lords and a prominent Muslim scholar (who bravely withdrew his blurb endorsement once Yale decided to censor the book). Nevertheless, Yale decided that, in this instance, additional, extraordinary vetting was warranted: consultations with "two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism." In July, Prof. Klausen was summoned by YUP's director, John Donatich, for "a cup of coffee" in Boston. Roger elaborates:
Oh, by the way, he informed her later, Linda Lorimer, Vice President and Secretary of the University, and Marcia Inhorn, a Professor of Anthropology and chairman of the Council on Middle East Studies at Yale, would be joining them.
Their two-hour cup of coffee on July 23rd was not a pleasant occasion. Professor Klausen was told about the recommendations of those anonymous "authorities." Unfortunately, her book about the Danish cartoons could only be published without the cartoons. Moreover, Professor Inhorn told her, that depiction of Mohammed in hell by Doré would have to go. How about the less graphic image of Mohammed by Dalí? she suggested. Nope. No-go on that either. In fact, Yale was embarking a new regime of iconoclasm: no representations of that 7th-century religious figure were allowed. (I rang Professor Inhorn at Yale to ask her about the event. She said she'd call me back. I'm still waiting.)
The recommendations by those nebulous "authorities" were eventually codified in a 14-page memo. Professor Klausen has been read snippets of the memo but hasn't seen the whole thing because she refused to sign a confidentiality agreement (a "gag order" she called it) not to reveal its contents or the names of the authorities. Why would Yale insist that she sign a confidentiality agreement?
It gets worse. Prof. Klausen says none of the anonymous authorities Yale consulted actually read the book. For these intrepid diplomats, Islamophiles and counterterrorism experts, the mere proposition of a publication with depictions of Mohammed was intolerable — after all, it would violate Islamic law.
Of course, as Roger surmises, there may be a follow-the-money explanation for all this — maybe Yale has deep-pocketed Muslim donors, or perhaps the University is more interested in knowing how much more the Saudis and other such donors, "might contribute were Yale to be — how shall I put this? — pleasing in their eyes?" But that aside, here's the real issue, the one that goes to what Mark was getting at:
The YUP just so happens to be one of the biggest producers of art catalogues for the museum world. What happens when some enterprising young curator puts together an exhibition of the work of Gustave Doré? Will he be told that he cannot include that work depicting Mohammed in Hell? What happens when someone wants to do a catalogue raisonné of the work of Salvador Dalí? Will his image of Mohammed be omitted? Ditto on William Blake, Botticelli, and Giovanni da Modena, all of whom illustrated that passage from Dante. The Koran forbids any depiction of Mohammed, so what about that bas relief at the U.S. Supreme Court by Adolph Weinman depicting Mohammed holding a sword?
I highly recommend every word of Roger's post, but I'll close with his close:
The really appalling thing is that institutions like Yale — institutions, I mean, that exist to pursue the truth — should tacitly endorse this ethic of pre-emptive capitulation. By embracing this species of mendacious political correctness they forfeit the prerogatives of truth for the dubious satisfactions of multicultural self-righteousness. Steyn's word "disgusting" is the mot juste. The question is, when — if ever — will a critical mass of people rise up and vomit out this poison?