Phobias are, according to the American Psychiatric Association, "an irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger." At times, phobias can be parallelizing and debilitating. These fears may be based upon logical although exaggerated dangers (such as snakes – some of which are dangerous – and heights – from which a fall can kill you) or entirely unreasonable, such as actor Billy Bob Thornton's fear of antique furniture.
When a phobia overtakes institutional rational behavior, it is a cause for society to take note and, when possible, remedy.
A current example of a phobia was exhibited last week by the Yale University Press. The Yale University Press, a part of one of our foremost educational institutions, announced that it was to publish a scholarly book entitled, The cartoons that shook the world, by Jytte Klausen. The book is an account of the 12 cartoons of Mohammed that were published in a Danish newspaper four years ago and the ensuing riots by some Muslims that lead to some 200 deaths.
According to most Muslims (but not all), depictions of the prophet Mohammed are blasphemous. Nonetheless, depictions of Mohammed have occurred throughout history in the Western and Muslim Worlds.
The surprising aspect of the Klausen's book is that Yale has chosen to eliminate the publication of the 12 offending cartoons themselves. Why? You know why: Yale is afraid of potential Muslim violence. But isn't this tantamount to publishing the Bible but leaving out references to God since to do so might incense some atheists? Or, how about publishing a book on the Supreme Court but leaving out references to Roe v. Wade on the grounds that some anti-abortionists have been violent in the past and could be offended by the reference.
Author Klausen is offended by the actions of Yale but has chosen to go ahead with the book's publication. She is even more offended by attempts at Yale to subject her to what she calls "gag order," prohibiting her from talking about the rationale for the cartoons' omission.
Yale is not alone in its fear of violence of radical Islam; most notably, The New York Times, during the height of the cartoon controversy, wrote of the controversy but refused to publish the essence of the controversy itself – the cartoons.
Yale and The New York Times like to think of themselves as bastions of integrity ever seeking truth and unafraid to take unpopular stands. The truth is that they are less than honest when they cower in debilitating fear of a few radical Muslims. At best, we can say that they suffer from Islamophobia. At worst …