A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to hear Chris Hitchens speak. Hitchens writes for a ton of publications, including a weekly column for slate.com
Hitchens' speech that night focused on the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism. He discussed not terrorism, but censorship. His speech centered on the controversy surrounding the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, and the resulting murder of the artist.
The repercussions went beyond those immediate results; it struck fear in publishers across the world who are now afraid of publishing anything that may offend Islamic extremists.
Yale University Press printed a book "The Cartoons That Shook the World," on the Danish cartoon controversy. Noticeably missing from the book were images of the cartoons. Why did they self-censor? The publishing company acted on the advice of two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism, who said printing the images could be dangerous.
I thought a lot about this during the flare-up surrounding "South Park's" depiction of the prophet. Comedy Central made the same decision that Yale University Press did: that it would be dangerous to include these images in their show.
I'm clearly behind the times. This happened almost a month ago, but I've been focused on final papers.
But it all came rushing back to me when I read Hitchens' latest column (Click HERE). It's about the French burqa ban. He uses the burqa as a jumping off point to discuss issues of using religious convictions as cover for immoral behavior, like abuse or honor killings.
The two issues are linked. But I'm more comfortable talking about the "South Park"/book issue. We're living in a time when a small minority of radicals have so terrified those in media that they're self-censoring. It's a dangerous precedent.