PEN American Center has joined the controversy over Yale University Press's decision to excise images of Muhammad from one of its new books and urged Yale to reconsider.
The literary and human rights organization sent a letter to Yale's president and board calling the decision "out of character with Yale, its reputation, and its leadership position."
The book, "The Cartoons That Shook the World," by Jytte Klausen, details the violent worldwide protests that erupted after a dozen provocative drawings by Danish cartoonists featuring the prophet were published in 2005 and 2006 in European newspapers. Initially, the cartoons as well as other images of Muhammad, including a Doré illustration for "Dante's Inferno," were to be included. After Yale consulted with security and Islamic experts, the press decided to pull all images of the prophet.
The letter said that after spirited debates with members from around the world, including those countries where mob protests result in death, PEN reached "one clear, consensus position: the introduction of violence or threats of violence into debates over art and ideas is to be rejected and condemned. PEN will always speak out on behalf of publishers who refuse to retreat from publications or publication plans out of fear or threats of violence."
The letter concludes that concludes that PEN is troubled by the "assessment that publishing the images could provoke a violent response — which we believe discredits both Professor Klausen's work and its readership—and by the decision to pull the images based on speculative threats."