The American Association of University Professors put it best:
The Cartoons that Shook the World: They certainly had Yale University Press shaking in its boots
“We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands.” That is effectively the new policy position at Yale University Press, which has eliminated all visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad from Jytte Klausen’s new book The Cartoons That Shook the World.
Yale University Press clearly took too much notice (you might need bugmenot) of foolish or agenda-driven advisors when they made the Alice-in-Wonderlandish decision to publish an academic work about the Danish Mohammed cartoons without either the cartoons in question, or indeed any other depiction of Islam’s inventor. Advisors such as Ibrahim Gambari who, despite a list of academic qualifications as long as your arm, is under the impression that
You can count on violence if any illustration of the prophet is published. It will cause riots, I predict, from Indonesia to Nigeria.
A statement which is demonstrably false.
Ironically, if the poor dunce had read Jytte Klausen’s book – or, indeed, had any knowledge of the Motoon affair – he would have known that riots and violence do not arise spontaneously on these occasions. They have to be painstakingly engineered and encouraged. It took over 3 months’ work by the Danish imams before the “Muslim world” reacted with the violence they were aiming for.
But, as Professor Klausen explained to MWW in an email
universities are risk-averse institutions and once Yale U had alarmist reports about what would happen there was little the university administration could do but not to publish the cartoon.
She is somewhat less sanguine about the removal of all the other illustrations of Mohammed, however, which
raises a whole other set of issues about the difference between an evidence-based risk assessment and an undefined concern with causing offense or perceptions of what other people may think.
Not only that, but in an action which the AAUP describes as “prior restraint of free speech,” Prof Klausen was denied access to the book reports unless she signed an agreement not to discuss their contents.
Outrage has not been as widespread as it ought to be. Author Reza Aslan, an admirer of the book, has withdrawn his favourable blurb in protest:
This is an academic book for an academic audience by an academic press. There is no chance of this book having a global audience, let alone causing a global outcry. It’s not just academic cowardice, it is just silly and unnecessary.
And Cary Nelson, President of the AAUP, who Prof Klausen says has “got it right about the principles involved”:
The issues are: 1) an author’s academic freedom; 2) the reputation of the press and the university; 3) the impact of these twin decisions on other university presses and publication venues; 4) the potential to encourage broader censorship of speech by faculty members or other authors. What is to stop publishers from suppressing an author’s words if it appears they may offend religious fundamentalists or groups threatening violence? We deplore this decision and its potential consequences.
So now we are in the annoying position of wanting to read the book and to support the author, but not wanting to add to the coffers of Quail University Press. Grr.
UPDATE: (17 Aug) The Guardian has more quotes, including one from an adviser named Sheila Blair who seemed to be very much against Yale’s censorship.
Sherry Jones, author of Jewel of Medina, weighs in with an impassioned plea for free expression on her blog.
UPDATE: (18 Aug) Oliver Kamm and Christopher Hitchens also take up cudgels.
For Professor Klausen to have her scholarly works abridged by her own publisher shows how far liberty has retreated in the face of theocratic bigotry. What a publisher. And what a disgrace.
Last time this happened, I linked to the Danish cartoons so that you could make up your own minds about them, and I do the same today. Nothing happened last time, but who’s to say what homicidal theocrat might decide to take offense now. I deny absolutely that I will have instigated him to do so, and I state in advance that he is directly and solely responsible for any blood that is on any hands. He becomes the responsibility of our police and security agencies, who operate in defense of a Constitution that we would not possess if we had not been willing to spill blood—our own and that of others—to attain it. The First Amendment to that Constitution prohibits any prior restraint on the freedom of the press. What a cause of shame that the campus of Nathan Hale should have pre-emptively run up the white flag and then cringingly taken the blood guilt of potential assassins and tyrants upon itself.