Peter Schmidt. Last week’s terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper that had published images of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, is prompting renewed criticism of Yale University Press’s controversial decision to redact similar cartoons from a scholarly book published in 2009.
That book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, focused on a global crisis that had erupted four years earlier over the publication of 12 caricatures of Muhammad by a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. The Yale press cited fears of inciting violence in removing the cartoons and all other illustrations, including recent and historical images of the Muslim prophet, from the book before publishing it.
The decision was widely criticized by the American Association of University Professors and other academic and free-speech advocacy groups, several of which cited it as part of a troubling trend in which colleges were surrendering the free exchange of ideas in response to threats.
In some respects, last week’s attacks in France, in which Islamist gunmen killed 12 people at Charlie Hebdo’s offices and five other people elsewhere, appeared to confirm that Yale University Press’s fears might have had some basis. But in an article published on Tuesday in the Yale Daily News, a student newspaper, and in op-eds printed elsewhere, people close to the Yale press’s decision and other scholars have cited the killings in France as reason to argue that the university press should have included cartoons in the book to take a stand in support of academic freedom and free speech. More...