Archive for September, 2009

Did Saudi money influence Yale’s Motoon climbdown?

We missed this when it came out, but it is worth looking at. Martin Kramer makes a strong case suggesting that money, rather than fear, was behind Yale University Press’s bizarre decision to publish The Cartoons That Shook The World without any of the cartoons in it.

It was Yale University, rather than the independent Press, which called in the “experts” who warned against publication, effectively forcing YUP’s decision. In April this year Yale University had appointed one Muna AbuSulayman as a “Yale World Fellow” for 2009, which is a semester-long fellowship. AbuSulayman directs the charitable foundation of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal – the 5th richest person in the world. This charitable foundation sets up centres for Islamic studies at universities around the world, most notably Harvard and Georgetown which received $20 million each in 2005.

Kramer puts two and two together:

Can you imagine a better way to set the stage for a major Alwaleed gift? Hosting for a semester the very person who structured the Harvard and Georgetown gifts, and who now directs Alwaleed’s charitable foundation? A stroke of genius.

Imagine, then—and we’re just imagining—that someone in the Yale administration, perhaps in President Levin’s office, gets wind of the fact that Yale University Press is about to publish a book on the Danish cartoons—The Cartoons That Shook the World. The book is going to include the Danish cartoons, plus earlier depictions of the Prophet Muhammad tormented in Dante’s Inferno, and who-knows-what-else. Whooah! Good luck explaining to people like Prince Alwaleed that Yale University and Yale University Press are two different shops. The university can’t interfere in editorial matters, so what’s to be done? Summon some “experts,” who’ll be smart enough to know just what to say. Yale will be accused of surrendering to an imagined threat by extremists. So be it: self-censorship to spare bloodshed in Nigeria or Indonesia still sounds a lot nobler than self-censorship to keep a Saudi prince on the line for $20 million.

All eyes on Yale for the next year or so. Will they be receiving a “gift” from the Saudi prince to help build a new centre for Islamic studies?

Saudi lawyers demand Motoon apology

A firm of Saudi lawyers, reportedly acting on behalf of the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed (the inventor if Islam (a theistic religion)), has demanded printed apologies from all the Danish newspapers which republished the “Turbomb” Motoon:

<b>The Turbomb</b>: The most famous of the 12 Motoons

The Turbomb: The most famous of the 12 Motoons

Faizal A.Z. Yamani of the Jeddah-based legal firm A.Z. Yamani sent a letter to about a dozen newspaper editors, insisting that they print apologies in Danish, English, Arabic and French, and to undertake never to print the cartoon again. He also ordered all the cartoons to be removed from the internet in perpetuity.

Yes, you read that right: he also ordered all the cartoons to be removed from the internet in perpetuity. Aren’t Saudi Arabian lawyers funny?

Unsurprisingly, the Danish Newspaper association doubts that the editors will comply, calling the demands “unacceptable.”

About 17 Danish newspapers reprinted the Turbomb after police foiled an alleged plot to murder the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard.

(Hat tip, B&W)