“I’m really quite tired of readjudicating this – I’d sort of thrown up my hands and given up hope of ever having these images in my book,” said Jytte Klausen, Lawrence A. Wien Professor of International Cooperation at Brandeis University and author of The Cartoons That Shook the World, which Yale published in 2009 without several originally included depictions of Muhammad, citing concerns about possible retaliation. One set of cartoons, published in Denmark's Jyllan-Posten newspaper in 2005, and which set off violent protests in the Middle East that were the subject of the Klausen book, were of particular concern.
At the same time, Klausen said, “I think we are in a new phase, and I really would welcome the opportunity [to reprint the book to include the images]. In the last two days, all major news outlets in the world with the exception of a few have run pictures Charlie Hebdo’s new front page, with a depiction” of the prophet.
Yale, meanwhile, is standing behind its widely criticized 2009 decision and denies ever having promised a paperback run of Klausen’s book.
The controversy surrounding Cartoons actually resurfaced last month, weeks before the events in Paris. In a Dec. 18 Washington Post op-ed criticizing Sony Pictures’ initial reaction not to release its movie “The Interview” in the face of terrorist threats from groups claiming ties to North Korea, Fareed Zakaria, the scholar and TV personality, wrote that he regretted endorsing the Yale press’s decision in 2009, when he was a university trustee. He resigned in 2012.
“The challenge that movie studios and theaters face is real because they have to balance freedom of expression with safety and commerce. But they have made a mistake,” Zakaria wrote. “I understand it well. In 2009, Yale University Press published a book on the Danish cartoon controversy but refrained from publishing the actual — offending — cartoons (of the prophet Muhammad) because of fears of retaliation and violence. As a trustee of the university, I was asked to defend the decision (one I would not have made).”
Zakaria continued: “Swayed by my concerns for an institution I love deeply and a group of administrators I respect greatly, I made a statement supporting the university’s actions that I have always deeply regretted. The right response then and now must be to affirm freedom of expression.”
Next, after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere in Paris, Klausen wrote a Time op-ed criticizing the Yale press and other Western publishers and news outlets for refusing to publish controversial images.
"Imagine for a minute that the Western press had continued to publish irascible cartoons ridiculing jihadist pieties after the Danish cartoon episode?," she wrote. "What if we did not have to go to the hidden courses of the Internet to find reproductions of Ottoman painting of [Muhammad]? The editors and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were targeted because, over the past five years, they have been left alone standing in defense of press freedom[.]"
This week, Jonathan Brent, executive director of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and former commissioning editor for the Yale press, made his first public comments about the debate over Klausen’s book. He told Yale’s student newspaper, The Yale Daily News, that he had argued for the images to remain but that the press was pressured by the administration to leave them out.
Yale press has never publicly denied that the university was involved in the decision not to publish the images of Muhammad.
In 2009, after the book’s publication, John Donatich, director of the press issued a statement saying in part: “On behalf of the Yale Press, the university consulted a number of senior academics, diplomats, and national security experts. The overwhelming judgment of the experts with the most insight about the threats of violence was that there existed an appreciable chance of violence occurring if either the cartoons or other depictions of the Prophet Muhammad were printed in a book about the cartoons published by Yale University Press.” Read more...