Prominent alumni and a national groups of university professors are criticizing Yale University for the removal of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed from an upcoming Yale University Press book because of fears of violence in the Muslim world, the Associated Press reports.
The book titled The Cartoons That Shook the World was written by Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen.
The cartoons were originally published four years ago in a Danish newspaper. They included one depicting Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban.
The following year, massive protests were mounted from Morocco to Indonesia and, in some cases, rioters set fire to Danish and other Western diplomatic missions.
Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
The AP reports that Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, wrote in a recent letter that Yale's decision effectively means: "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands."
Michael Steinberg, an attorney and Yale graduate was among 25 alumni who signed a protest letter last week to Yale Alumni Magazine urging the university to restore the book, the AP says.
"I think it's horrifying that the campus of Nathan Hale has become the first place where America surrenders to this kind of fear because of what extremists might possibly do," Steinberg says, according to the AP.
Other signers included John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, former Bush administration speechwriter David Frum and Seth Corey, described as a liberal doctor.
Last week, Bolton referred to Yale's action as "intellectual cowardice."
The Yale Daily News quotes Yale vice president Linda Lorimer as saying that despite the views of some experts who saw no threats of danger, the university Yale "concluded that those people were not really in a position to make the evaluation of the threat of violence in the same way that senior folks in counterterrorism on both sides of the Atlantic were."
Yale University Press says in a statement that the university consulted counterterrorism officials, diplomats and the top Muslim official at the United Nations.
"Yale and Yale University Press are deeply committed to freedom of speech and expression, so the issues raised here were difficult," the statement says. "The press would never have reached the decision it did on the grounds that some might be offended by portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad."