In a moral failure of epic proportions Yale University Press is censoring a scholarly publication dealing with the controversy over cartoons caricaturing Muslims and the Prophet Mohammed. Editors at Yale University Press have triggered a storm of controversy and outrage by deciding not to reprint the 12 sketches for fear of violence.
The Cartoons That Shook the World, due out in November by Yale University Press, examines the reaction of the Muslim world to the 2005 publication of the cartoons by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The original publication of the satirical cartoons resulted in riots, death threats, and the murder of many people.
Author Jytte Klausen, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University, reluctantly agreed to cut the cartoons from the book, after being pressured by the publisher. The censorship is outrageous, as the images are the central topic of the book.
The fear is that the terrible history makes the publication of the cartoons, or of any derisive image of Muhammad, likely to incite or produce violence. Indeed, just last June, when a car bomb exploded in front of the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing eight people and injuring at least 30, Al Qaeda proudly claimed to be behind the bombing, describing it as retaliation for "the insulting drawings."
If Yale University Press must censor the book they should decline to publish the book. To agree to publish the book and then censor the contents of the book is intellectually and morally reprehensible. Yale University Press is sending a chilling message. Those groups, and in particular Islamic extremists, who can credibly pose a threat of violence, will be able to censor ideas and images they find offensive.
To appease religious thugs is cowardly and craven. A chilling precedent has been set, a precedent rewarding the bully who threatens violence. Those at Yale University Press have betrayed a sacred trust. Their shame is great.