August 18, 2009

Yale University Press Censors Itself

Christopher Hitchens is disgusted at the fact that the Danish cartoon scare isn't over.

The capitulation of Yale University Press to threats that hadn't even been made yet is the latest and perhaps the worst episode in the steady surrender to religious extremism—particularly Muslim religious extremism—that is spreading across our culture. A book called The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Danish-born Jytte Klausen, who is a professor of politics at Brandeis University, tells the story of the lurid and preplanned campaign of "protest" and boycott that was orchestrated in late 2005 after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. (The competition was itself a response to the sudden refusal of a Danish publisher to release a book for children about the life of Mohammed, lest it, too, give offense.) By the time the hysteria had been called off by those who incited it, perhaps as many as 200 people around the world had been pointlessly killed.

Yale University Press announced last week that it would go ahead with the publication of the book, but it would remove from it the 12 caricatures that originated the controversy. Not content with this, it is also removing other historic illustrations of the likeness of the Prophet, including one by Gustave Doré of the passage in Dante's Inferno that shows Mohammed being disemboweled in hell. (These same Dantean stanzas have also been depicted by William Blake, Sandro Botticelli, Salvador Dalí, and Auguste Rodin, so there's a lot of artistic censorship in our future if this sort of thing is allowed to set a precedent.)

I can relate to Yale University Press and its concern about what might happen to its staff or to others if the cartoons are (re)published. I lived in Beirut when a rent-a-mob was bussed into the city to torch the Danish Embassy after a similarly "spontaneous" riot broke out in (of all places) Damascus. I wasn't exactly in the mood to publish the cartoons myself at the time since I lived literally within walking distance of the crime scene.

Now, though? Who cares? The offending cartoons have been reproduced all over the place in the meantime, and there haven't been any "grassroots" explosions of anger about them for years.

Martin Kramer explains why:

Extremists are always looking for something to exploit, but it has to be a new, unprecedented (perceived) offense against Islam. Dante's Inferno, Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, the Danish cartoons — these are all old perceived offenses, too familiar to fire up a sense of indignation. No doubt there will be another round at some point — and no doubt, its ostensible "cause" will surprise us all. (That's because it won't really be the cause, but a pretext — like the Danish cartoons.)
Everybody at Yale ought to take this to heart and relax.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 18, 2009 11:33 AM

Comments

Here is a nice little selection of Mohamed imagery through the ages. Forbidden since when?

http://www.zombietime.com/mohammed_image_archive/

It seems like there's always room for Jihad!

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at August 18, 2009 1:50 PM

Thank you very much, Lindsey. I couldn't agree more. I've saved that link, and you should send it to your favorite media hypocrites. My personal favorite for calling to task is the Washington Post, but they don't accept emails with attachments.....I guess maybe other media have that policy.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at August 18, 2009 8:54 PM

So, what parts of Muhammad's life does this childrens' book cover, exactly? The murder, the genocide, the assassinations, the rape, the looting, the sex-slavery, the pedophilia?

Posted by: Squires Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 12:33 AM

Squires,

You do know there's more to it than that, right?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 12:38 AM

Morningside,
Stop projecting your superior standards and values on the media. It just won't work. But you already know that, that is why you are here. :-}

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 1:25 AM

"You do know there's more to it than that, right?"

Michael,

There is more to Islam than what Squires stated. Many adherents of this faith are kind and generous people.

However, the simple fact that these atrocities are even a part of the life of Mohammed should be enough to discount this man as a prophet of "God".

Posted by: Step Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 7:38 AM

Not sure about genocide, but the nine year old wife and the banditry aspects of Mo's life appear to be undisputed.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 8:04 AM

You might want to check out the history of the jews of Mecca at the time of Mohammed. That episode I believe does qualify as genocidal.

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 10:56 AM

[i]"That episode I believe does qualify as genocidal."[/i]

By today's standards, yes.
However, then it was business as usual.
Jews themselves were not immune to this kind of behavior.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 11:19 AM

Leo,

"Jews themselves were not immune to this kind of behavior."
Are you referring to Jews of that era or those of an earlier era (up to 100 A.C.E.)?

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 12:17 PM

Leo:
One of the fundamental problems of Islam is that it has a natural tendency to treat the standards of C7th Arabia as the standards for all time.

Posted by: Lorenzo Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 3:30 PM

"Are you referring to Jews of that era or those of an earlier era (up to 100 A.C.E.)?"

I though of events between some 3500 years ago and up until say 100 A.C.E. if you prefer.
However, my reference was to the way wars were fought then by everybody without exception.
And since dawn of time until some 200 years ago.

"One of the fundamental problems of Islam is that it has a natural tendency to treat the standards of C7th Arabia as the standards for all time."

While I agree with this I must remind you that my reply was regarding events transpired in that very 7th century and regarding reflection of 7th century contemporaries. What happened after that is different story all together.

I believe we are making (rather common) mistake of applying morals of today to people and actions of totally different era.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 6:30 PM

Leo,

"I believe we are making (rather common) mistake of applying morals of today to people and actions of totally different era."

In general I feel you are correct and I do try to avoid that mistake.
However, in this case, after reading about the short stay of the Jews in the Arabian peninsula (150 years), it is all too clear what the intent of Mohammed and his associates was. The Jews were clearly a threat to Mohammed and to his new religion and he found excuses to massacre them and to banish them.
This attitude of Muslims and Christians as well as those who consider fanaticism of the right and left "religions" has persisted with little change since Paul and the early first century. The only difference is the degree of sophistication used in the latter groups. With respect to Islam, there is really no difference (as Lorenzo correctly observed).
It is one thing to get rid of adversaries and enemies; but quite a different one to get rid of people as a group because of their religion.

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 8:19 PM

I believe this two phrases are the key to understand why Mohamed did what he did:

"The Jews were clearly a threat to Mohammed and to his new religion and he found excuses to massacre them and to banish them."

"It is one thing to get rid of adversaries and enemies; but quite a different one to get rid of people as a group because of their religion."

Please, understand me correctly. I am not condoning this, I am simply trying to explain how I understand this.
BTW, Mohamed was not the first to try this "convert/leave/die" formula. Jews introduced it (at least in recorded history) during conquest of Canaan.

See, when you are fighting war over land or property your captives are an asset (slaves).
When you are fighting war of ideas your captives are a liability (virus).

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at August 19, 2009 9:02 PM

If Mohammad wasn't much better than his contemporaries then he shouldn't be placed on a pedestal.

Only people whose wisdom and compassion far surpass their contemporaries deserve that sort of stature.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at August 20, 2009 6:12 AM

Nicely put, Leo

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at August 20, 2009 6:24 AM

Leo, I think Muslim genocide in African and Indian/Afghanistan campaigns slaughtered record numbers of people. Some place estimates at over 100.000.000 in Africa alone and that did involve slavery. I am not sure is there is a real comparison in numbers but I do understand your point.

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at August 22, 2009 9:46 AM

"I can relate to Yale University Press and its concern about what might happen to its staff or to others if the cartoons are (re)published."

The threats continue to succeed. Yale joins the growing number of organizations that censor any discussion of Islam.

Then again, maybe Yale is pandering for more Arab money.

Posted by: Davod Author Profile Page at August 23, 2009 5:49 AM
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