Yale University Press won't reprint cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a forthcoming book about the 2006 controversy over their publication by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
The book in question is The Cartoons That Shook the World, written by Jytte Klausen, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University. When Klausen sought to include the cartoons in her book, which is due out in November, Yale University Press Director John Donatich moved quickly to consult several dozen outside "authorities."
The unanimous conclusion of these experts, Donatich told the New York Times, was that the cartoons would have to go. They also suggested that other illustrations of the prophet that were to have been included in the book should be removed: an Ottoman print, a drawing for a children's book, and a sketch by 19th century artist Gustave Dore of Muhammad being tortured in Hell.
Donatich rationalized the capitulation by stating that the cartoons are widely available on the Internet and can be described in words, which would make reprinting them gratuitous. Donatich said he has published other controversial books, and "I have never blinked."
The Cartoons That Shook the World was a different story because "when it came between that and blood on my hands, there was no question" that the cartoons would have to go, Donatich said. He added that the cartoons continued to provoke unrest as recently as last year when Danish police arrested three men suspected of trying to kill the artist who drew the cartoon depicting Muhammad's turban as a bomb.
Donatich quoted one of the experts consulted by Yale - Ibrahim Gambari, special adviser to the secretary-general of the United Nations and the former foreign minister of Nigeria – as concluding: "You can count on violence if any illustration of the prophet is published. It will cause riots, I predict, from Indonesia to Nigeria."
Donatich's action was too much for Reza Aslan, who called removal of the cartoons "academic cowardice" and "idiotic." Aslan, who previously wrote that the cartoons offended him as needlessly provocative, asked that a blurb of him praising the book be removed from its jacket.
The most eloquent criticism of Yale's decision came from Jonathan Tobin, executive editor of Commentary magazine:
"For a major university and a prestigious publishing house to bow to the dictates of Islamist murderers and those 'diplomats' and 'scholars' who believe in appeasing Islamism sets a new standard for political correctness. But the rot goes deeper than that. A Western culture that is willing to censor scholarly work so as to avoid upsetting irrational extremists in the Arab and Muslim world is in serious danger of losing the will to defend itself."
Read the full article here.