The fallout continues for Yale University after its decision to publish Jytte Klausen's book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, without printing the images of the Prophet Mohammed that are the book's focus. Yale said experts it consulted warned that publishing the images "ran a serious risk of instigating violence."
A group of 44 Yale alumni wrote to President Richard Levin urging that the school reconsiders "its unprecedented censorship."
"Simply stated," the alumni letter said, "Yale must not be the arbiter of what is 'safe' to publish. Such censorship corrodes the intellectual freedom that is the foundation of the entire university community."
Notable signatories include former U.N. representative John R. Bolton, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Robert Kagan, novelist Matthew Klein, and columnist Diana West. The letter comes on the heels of an announcement by scholar Sarah Ruden that she no longer would accept bids from Yale University Press on her future work. Yale published her translation of The Aeneid last year, but she pledged to take future projects elsewhere:
"This is, first of all, a self-protective move. I don't think there's any coffee good enough that I'd enjoy being told over it that my finished, fully edited manuscript is going to be neutered because of a report I'm not allowed to see without swearing secrecy. Since I write about politics and religion, such a scene is a likely danger for me. But I would urge all authors who are even considering a relationship with the Press to stay away from this non-publisher."
Meanwhile, both Klausen and Kurt Westergaard, who drew one of the now-infamous cartoons, spoke about the controversy last week. According to the Yale Daily News, Klausen tried to shy away from Yale's decision to leave the images out of her book. But in response to audience questions, she acknowledged the move made her "a chapter in my own book," and while the cartoons can be considered offensive, The Cartoons That Shook the World contradicts "the notion that they are taboo or bad and [Muslims] lack the self-control to deal with that."
Yale's Muslim Students Association chapter complained that Westergaard's appearance undermined the school's "commitment to a creating a nurturing learning environment by failing to recognize the religious and racial sensitivity of the issue." Similarly, Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman Ibrahim Hooper criticized those who hosted Westergaard as engaging in Muslim bashing saying the "are obviously intending to offend Muslims, but we're not going to rise to the bait."
Westergaard told a New York audience that Muslims need to understand that they, like anyone else, are not "free of being mocked or being offended."