Four years after a Danish newspaper published a dozen cartoons depicting Muhammad, and set off violent protests by Muslims, Yale University Press has touched off protests of its own by censoring the offending cartoons out of a scholarly book it has just released on the protests.
"The Cartoons that Shook the World," by Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen, examines in detail what happened during those protests – violent incidents staged by Muslim extremists.
But Yale ordered the offending cartoons excised from the book, after concluding that they would incite further violence from Muslim extremists if they were included.
"After careful consideration, the Press has declined to reproduce the Sept. 30, 2005, Jyllands-Posten newspaper page that included the cartoons, as well as other depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that the author proposed to include," the Press said in a statement.
Yale University Press, which is owned by Yale, has been under fire since August, when it first announced that it would publish the book without the cartoons.
"The Press would never have reached the decision it did on the grounds that some might be offended by portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad," the statement said in response to criticism. "Indeed, Yale University Press has printed books in the past that included images of the Prophet. The decision rested solely on the experts' assessments that there existed a substantial likelihood of violence that might take the lives of innocent victims."
Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., told CNSNews.com that she is incensed that an Ivy League school would bow to pressure from Muslim extremists.
"I am very disappointed that the university decided not to publish depictions of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in a scholarly work on the cartoon crisis," Shea said.
"I find it extremely disturbing that Yale University Press would, at the drop of a hat, trade off freedom of speech and scholarly inquiry for some remote possibility of violence or offense," Shea said. "Yale betrayed its principles, and showed that even at the highest levels of (academics), there is extreme confusion about the limits of free speech."
The human rights lawyer said she finds it particularly ironic that in lieu of the cartoons, the university has invited the cartoonist to appear on campus.
"Given that they are now sponsoring a talk by the cartoonist, it seems that there was no real threat," Shea added.
Robert Spencer, author of "The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran," published by Regnery Press, said that the university is "demonstrating that threats of violence work, and that Western non-Muslims will not stand up and defend the principle of free speech against Islamic supremacist intimidation."
Spencer claims that intimidation is part of Islam's history, and is a technique that Muslims have begun to use to silence their critics – those, he said, who "offend Islam."
"Islam is not a religion of peace, Islam is a religion of war par excellence," Spencer told CNSNews.com. "Islam is the only religion in the world that has a theology and legal system that mandates war against unbelievers.
"Islam is supremacist because Islam is supremacist by its nature," Spencer said. "It's a political system as well as well as a religious one that calls for the subjugation of Jews and Christians under the rule of the Muslims, with denial of basic rights to them – including the freedom of speech and the right to build new houses of worship."
But Imam Talal Eid, the Islamic chaplain at Brandeis University and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, challenged Spencer's view.
The Muslim leader told CNSNews.com that the cartoons, especially one supposedly depicting Muhammad wearing a turban with a bomb in it, were indeed offensive to Muslims – but so was the violent reaction on the part of what he said were "radical" elements of Islam.
"The majority of Muslims would all agree that the cartoon is offensive, but I think (it was because) the cartoonist was not sensitive enough (to the views of Islam)," he said. "I would think it was simply because of lack of knowledge about Islam –what can be considered offensive, what not.
"Even here in the United States, there were newspapers that did not publish the cartoons – an indication that they sympathized with us.
"What I did not like and I strongly condemn (was) any attempt by Muslims to act violently – to threaten the life of the cartoonist. This is not acceptable – It is non-Islamic," Eid said.
The Muslim cleric said the violence and protests were staged.
"I do not think this was the natural reaction (of Muslims)," he said. "I think the negative reaction took place a year after (the cartoons appeared); it was not the same time -- an indication that Muslims in Denmark were acting responsibly. The thing is, when those hardliners entered into the (lime) light, that is what made it hard.
"I did not react by wishing death and destruction to (the) newspaper, and I never thought we should boycott Danish products. It did nothing, to the mind of many Muslims. We understand the situation."
Eid noted that the violent reaction did not come from Muslims in the United States.
"It (came from) some countries that are known to have radical views on Islam, anyway," he said. "If you want to look at Bangladesh, or Pakistan or Syria, you will find radical views or political views – nothing else."
More than 200 people have been killed and hundreds more have been injured in violence surrounding the publication – and republication – of the cartoons.
Klausen, who did not return calls about this story, reported on her Web site that she agreed to the censorship because she did not believe her book would be published if it depicted the cartoons.