Cartoons of Muhammad: Yale steps in it.

There is a story written in ancient Chinese documents that goes something like this:

The Emperor has become enraged at a peasant who committed a misdemeanor. The Emperor has unjustifiably beheaded the peasant.

The Emperor has asked the court historian (me) to remove the previous reference to his inappropriate rage. I have refused.

(slight change in calligraphic style)

The Emperor, who previously unjustly removed the head of a man for a minor crime, has unjustly removed the head of the previous historian. I am the new historian.

The Emperor on seeing my previous entry has asked me to remove it. I refused.

(slight change in calligraphic style)

Previous historian has been beheaded by the Emperor. I am the new historian.

I have been asked by the emperor to remove all prior references to his unjust beheading of various persons. I have refused.

(slight change in calligraphic style)

The Emperor has unjustly beheaded the previous historian, and I am appointed the new Emperor.

The Emperor has asked me to remove prior references to his unjust beheadings. I have refused.

The Emperor has just declared that he gives up on the problem of the obnoxious historians and shall allow me to live and the record to stand.

Stupid Emperor. But he learned.


In the modern era we have a new problem. Dutch cartoonist makes fun of Muhammad. Batshit crazy Islamic fundamentalists decide to kill the cartoonist.

Then, everybody else with a copy of the cartoons is advised by their lawyer to dump the cartoons.

And they comply. Surely, the end of civilization is near.

Yale University has removed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad from an upcoming book about how they caused outrage across the Muslim world, drawing criticism from prominent alumni and a national group of university professors. Yale cited fears of violence.

Yale University Press, which the university owns, removed the 12 caricatures from the book The Cartoons That Shook the World by Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen. The book is scheduled to be released next week.

“I think it’s horrifying that the campus of Nathan Hale has become the first place where America surrenders to this kind of fear because of what extremists might possibly do,” said Michael Steinberg, an attorney and Yale graduate.

Read the rest of the story here.

Hat Tip: August Berkshire.

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0 thoughts on “Cartoons of Muhammad: Yale steps in it.

  1. Yale don’t want to lose all of that filthy oil soaked Saudi money flowing through there–Nathan Hale had none o’ that…

  2. Just think how much the Catholic Church could have maintained in power if they had thought of this same insane reactionary violence to any criticism to their dogma and myths. Islam is only at the start of their Inquisitional stage. Islam is SO strong a belief system that Mohammad can’t be drawn.

  3. “The directors of the firm hired to continue the credits after the other
    people had been sacked, wish it to be known that they have just been

    The credits have been completed in an entirely different style at
    great expense and at the last minute.”

  4. There is a very real and dangerous issue here, concerning the freedom of the press. What Jyllands Posten did in publishing the cartoons was perfectly legal. But – and this is a big but – with freedom of the press comes responsibility. There is a debate going on in Europe about how Muslims and Christians can co-exist. It’s already heated enough with extremists on bths sides shouting down – and in many cases beating or killing – the opposition. Jyllands Posten chose to enter this debate not with reasoned discussion or analysis, but with a set of cartoons which were guaranteed to offend Muslims, which the editor published against the expert advice. Given that some of those offended Muslims were in the batshit crazy camp, trouble was always going to ensue. But what is worse is that Muslims who were *not* in the batshit crazy camp, and who might have engaged in dialogue, were pissed off by an ignorant act which contributed nothing worthwhile. I frankly don’t care one way or the other about the cartoons – they especially funny or memorable even. But I do care that the fallout from this is as toxic and hard to handle as anything radioactive from Chernobyl and yes, the half-life is probably measurable in decades too. The book will still be published: if Yale feel that there is a threat to anyone associated with the book if the cartoons are also published, then they are doing the right thing. I would rather that we live in a world absent of extremism, but unfortunately we do not. The way to tackle it is to engage it, defuse it, debate it and ultimately defeat it. Giving extremists reason to entrench themselves and targets to vent their anger against is not the way forward. Softly, softly.

  5. Daen de Leon,
    You have given up your freedom for security and deserve neither*.
    *To paraphrase someone who knew a little about freedom.

  6. This makes me angry.Every fucking newspaper in the world should post those cartoons, and noone should give in to death threats by religious lunatics.
    If we are going to be open in our mocking and ridicule of religious insanity, we have to apply it to every religion, and not shy away from the more medievil ones threatening us with death or worse.
    Fuck them too.
    Side effect of getting rid or at least speaking out against Islam would be the liberation of about a billion women, might want to keep that in mind too.

  7. Daen de Leon,

    You make a good point. All religions have their wing-nuts who are beyond persuasion. But they all have some basically sensible people too, who have a chance of being cured of their delusions. Gratuitously offending all of them is counter-productive.

  8. Where can we get copies of all the cartoons? I think every blogger out there needs to publish them on their blog, and seriously decry the sort of batshit crazy that extreemism seems to foster. And for good measure, publish the cartoons that Achma-didn’t-win commissioned in Iran… It’s all a bunch of batshit crazy fighting over an imaginary friend anyway!

  9. The problem with the cartoons is that none of them are funny (-which is a crime itself against the art of political cartooning). Some of them were pretty clearly designed to inflame people rather than make a proper point about censorship or religion.
    I’ve posted versions of them on my blog in the past to make a point about religious censorship in my native Ireland so I’m not averse to using them but lets not portray the pictures themselves as being particularly wonderful.
    There are much better portrayals of mohammed that could be used if you want to make a point about using the image of the prophet. For instance there is the famous 19th century Gustave Dore version done for a copy of Dantes ‘Inferno’
    I think there are even pictures of Mohammed in some of the early Persian versions of the Koran.

  10. Daen de Leon, there is no secret on how different religions coexist in the modern world. Each practices their own religion, not expecting others to defer or respect their own, each guaranteed a sphere of freedom by secular, civil law. Those who accept this are the only ones who might deserve the label moderate. Those who don’t accept this should be called out as extremists. Those who would practice violence for their religion should be put in prison the first time they cross the law’s bounds.

  11. Freedom of speech is a marvelous, amazing thing. But Daen de Leon is right – it comes, as does every right, with responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is not being a massive douche about how you use it unless you’re willing to take a bit of heat. In my opinion, while Yale University Press is well within their rights to publish the cartoons again, doing so is in incredibly poor taste and, much like the Emperor in the story, suggests an inability to learn that certain behavior is inappropriate and childish, regardless of how irrational the reaction to that behavior is.

    Republishing the cartoons achieves nothing.

  12. First off I disagree with those that thought none of the cartoons were funny. One or two were very funny and to the point.
    Secondly forget the idea that these cartoons inflamed grass roots Mohammedans. The majority of protesting Mohammedans never even saw the cartoons, they were inflamed by rabble rousing politicians for their own ends and at least some were probably paid for their efforts. Take note that Jesus and Mo cartoons keep going without objection.
    For the future of mankind, freedom of speech and ideas is way more important than religious sensitivity, which stifles new ideas. Given exposure to cartoons, Mohammedans will eventually acclimatise and mature.
    Yale is absolutely wrong to appease like this.

  13. Gwyd writes:

    Republishing the cartoons achieves nothing.

    This is an academic study of the furor set off by the cartoons’ original publication. Republishing the cartoons serves two important purposes. First, it documents the subject. For the author not to include them would be like a primatologist writing about bonobo behavior not publishing photos for fear of offending the prudish. Scholars shouldn’t censor their work for the sensibilities of those who are offended by the relevant data. In fifty years, Yale will be nothing but embarrassed by this decision.

    Second, the cartoons themselves are quite mild, fully within the range of editorial cartoons frequently published on all range of subjects, criticizing various views, religions, and political parties. Republishing the cartoons serves to reinforce that fact.

  14. This is rather disappointing. The long term implication of this is that the most violent will dictate what is said and what is printed. This goes against the values and traditions of the university. Yale has always and should continue publishing things that might offend some people.

  15. Funny stuff. The whole point of the cartoons in the first place was that nobody would dare to draw the prophet Mohammad to illustrate a children’s book about islam. Then a whole bunch of cartoonists* stepped in and did just that. The drawings were shown with an editorial text that explained the whole thing. Everything was done in good faith, then blown out of proportion by the press and islamists themselves.

    *One of the drawings was not a caricature at all, just a painting of an old vaguely arabic looking man with a walking stick. One was a carcicature of a cartoonist hiding his drawing.

  16. Oh yeah, and to keep with a tradition of double posts, I have rigged myself with explosives and will detonate them next time I read the word “semprini” written in a blog comment.


  17. Yeah, this is really annoying. I’m very ashamed that my alma mater has given in this way. Unfortunately, I don’t know if as some suggest Yale will be embarrased by this in fifty years. It might very well be that the situation gets even worse by then.

    Larian, you can find all the cartoons on the relevant Wikipedia article among other places.

  18. Sorry two other points that should have been in my above comment. First, the Iranian response mentioned by Larian is interesting. But it does take a very warped mind to think that the equivalent response to derogatory cartoons about Muhammad is to make cartoons claiming the Holocaust was a hoax. It is also noteworthy that those cartoons made in Iran didn’t cause Jews or homosexuals or Roma or anyone else killed in the Holocaust to riot.

    Sailor, term “Mohammedan” it is archaic and inaccurate. It also has specifically important inaccurate theological implications because Muslims don’t worship him.

  19. “Freedom of speech is a marvelous, amazing thing. But Daen de Leon is right – it comes, as does every right, with responsibilities.” Gwyd.

    Bullshit. Freedom of speech does not come with great responsibility. So-called “irresponsible” speech must be as protected, if not more protected, than so-called “responsible” speech. Because, otherwise, there is no freedom of speech at all, but merely license to speak that which is approved by the entity which gets to decide what is or is not “responsible”. [No thanks, I’ll take my chances with irresponsible speech.]

    However, if we were to credit your belief that responsibility comes with freedom, then it must also be true that with the freedom of religious belief also comes with responsibility. And if one is driven into a murderous rage by the scribblings of a cartoonist, then one is not exercising that religious belief responsibly, correct?

    So if it is a question of the society enforcing (through legal means or otherwise) the “responsible” exercise of rights, I would rather than the society work to restrict the freedom of religious belief than the freedom of speech.

  20. Freedom of speech does come with great responsibility, and if being a douche gets you shit, then eat the shit because it is what you ordered for lunch.

    But, even douche-like expression should not get you killed.

    Yale is giving away all it pretends is important by censoring this book’s contents. The authors of the cartoons are probably douche bags. Those that called for a fatwa (and in at least one case actually killed someone) are super-douches.

    There are no good guys here.

    And no, the emperor story has a vey different lesson than suggested by gwyd

  21. The book is scheduled to be released next week.

    IANA publisher, but I’m pretty sure this signifies the print run & binding have already been completed.

    Has YUP hired some poor min-wage slave to open each copy and remove several pages with an exacto knife? The remaining little stubs will be a permanent silent rebuke to the Press, and to each person who buys a copy of this castration.

    Jytte “she hopes Yale will include them in later editions” Klausen will forever deserve both pity and shame for allowing this to go forward, instead of seeking a publisher with scholarly integrity.

  22. Is the 21st century turning into the age of appeasement for the West? Might as well open the gates to the barbarians of Islam and Christianity. I expected more fortitude than what has been displayed by Yale University and Press. Lip service to the free press only in theory, not practice.

  23. “Sailor, term “Mohammedan” it is archaic and inaccurate. It also has specifically important inaccurate theological implications because Muslims don’t worship him.”

    If Muslims don’t worship him, how come they get their knickers in such a twist when someone does a cartoon of him?

  24. Daen de Leon,

    The very nature of extremists is that they cannot be engaged in reasonable dialogue. What this event did was show the world just how many Muslims place more importance on their faith than on maintaining peace and order. Drawings caused this, not even very good drawings. Ink on paper. Dozens of deaths, buildings destroyed, death threats issued…for what?

    It is very important for people to stop thinking like you do because the solution to the problem needs a rational grounding; these moderate Muslims, who abhor such violence and bloodshed, those who would never hurt others because of such trivialities, need our support. Atrocities like those committed during the riots after the cartoons were published undermine anyone who claims that Islam provides a moral highground; those who threw the rocks and firebombs can’t be appeased, they can only be squeezed out of existence by diplomatic and social pressure, with violence as a last resort, but if the moderates are applying *religious* pressure, it will help avoid violence all the more. Needless to say, this is an excellent tradeoff because as the Koran says “where there is one, there are many”…killing extremists just makes more extremists. Much better to see them opposed and outnumbered by their own people, Muslims like them.

    This is just the beginning of the Islamic extremist problem, but make no mistake; this is a war we can’t lose. Negotiating with people who will never change their ways or their methods is futile. I’m not saying that stirring them up intentionally is a good idea, but one of the fundamentals of democracy is the freedom to say and publish what you want; to put it another way, the only Muslims who will integrate well into democratic nations present and future are the ones who didn’t want to murder people and/or blow up buildings when these cartoons were published.

    We’ve still got a long way to go.

  25. @VolcanoMan

    Actually, you can’t just say and publish what you want in a democracy. Shouting “fire!” in a crowded theatre, or handing out pornographic magazines next to a school are two activities that spring to mind as being somewhat suspect. Add to that the publishing of material which incites racial or sectarian hatred. And I would suggest that if you want to support moderate Muslims, there are many other ways of achieving that than by publishing cartoons poking fun at a central figure of the Islamic faith. Just sayin’.

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