When a Danish cartoonist who drew one of the famous Muhammad caricatures visits Yale this Thursday, the event will be open to Branford College students only, Branford Master Steven Smith says.
The talk by Kurt Westergaard is technically a master's tea, but it will be moved out of Branford to a bigger and more secure location, Smith says. "Like some teas, when you have a highly popular and interesting guest, and where seating is limited, we limit them to our own college. You can't become a circus. And obviously there are very serious security issues. I've never met with the FBI to have a master's tea before."
Westergaard drew the widely seen cartoon of Muhammad wearing a bomb for a turban. After a Danish newspaper published that and eleven other provocative images of the Muslim prophet in 2005, violent protests erupted worldwide.
The controversy re-emerged in August, when the Yale University Press decided to excise the twelve cartoons from an upcoming book about the cartoons. The decision has drawn sharp criticism — and some support — from Yale alumni and others.
The book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, was released Monday. Apparently by coincidence, its author, Brandeis political scientist Jytte Klausen, will speak at a separate Yale event Thursday evening.
Smith, the Branford master, says he agreed to sponsor Westergaard's talk after being contacted in late August by a Yale graduate affiliated with an organization called the International Free Press Society. "Frankly I have no idea" what Westergaard will talk about, he says. "This is his first trip to North America. They haven't communicated to me an exact topic."
The Denmark-based IFPS has declared September 30 — the anniversary of the cartoons' publication — to be International Free Press Day. It is sponsoring Westergaard's mini-tour of the U.S., which includes stops at Princeton and in New York City, according to the group's website.
Smith says the Yale University Press controversy is "something I really don't have any opinion on." Westergaard's speech, he says, is "an educational event for Branford students . . . to have Westergaard here, and somewhat unfiltered."
Meanwhile, a new student website, Midnight at Yale, reports some additional background on the YUP decision to ditch the cartoons. In particular, the site quotes Jonathan Brent, YUP's associate director until July, on the "highly unusual" move, in which he was not involved:
According to Brent, soon after the manuscript came in earlier this year it was sent to four different historians, all of whom "very very enthusiastically supported publication of the book, and . . . said the cartoons should be published." He even sent it to the legal department (which he said is an unusual move, but one he felt was necessary because of the nature of the subject) and heard no complaints. Even when the book went to the Publications Committee, he said, its publication and that of the cartoons was unanimously accepted.