Brandeis prof’s book bowdlerized by publisher


Brandeis politics professor Jytte Klausen’s new book on the 2005 Danish Muhammed cartoon controversy has been selectively censored by its publisher, the Yale University Press. The New York Times reports today that Yale ordered the images of the actual cartoons to be removed from the book.  Entitled The Cartoons That Shook The World, the book was intended to be the definitive account of the incident which caused riots and 200 deaths, as well as a worldwide debate over journalistic ethics. The Yale Press stated that the publishing of the actual cartoons in the context of a book about them “could be interpreted easily as gratuitous.” But even more controversially, Yale removed images of Muhammed other than the cartoons from the book, and furthermore told Prof. Klausen that it would only allow her to read the reasons for the decision if she agreed not to disclose them to anyone.

Personally,  I find the Yale Press’s action utterly unreasonable. Admittedly, I do not know the full reasoning behind the decision, since the Press will not disclose it. But seeing the cartoons is an important part of understanding the controversy about them, and the book will lose much of its value without being able to show its subject. I hope this decision is reversed or Prof. Klausen finds a new publisher.

Yale Press Bans Images of Muhammed in New Book by Jytte Klausen. The New York Times. August 12, 2009.





11 responses to “Brandeis prof’s book bowdlerized by publisher”

  1. Nathan J. Robinson

    Astroturfing alert!

  2. Alex N.

    As much as I might understand Yale Press’s hesitation to expose themselves to criticism or worse, there should not be any situation in which someone is afraid to publish a book in the United States of America. This issue has to be faced at some point. Islam as a whole will have to get used to the fact that those who don’t share their religion are not bound by the same laws (Note: Islam is not the only religion that has to get used to this).

    I also am offended by Arthur’s implication that Middle Eastern Studies departments hate free speech.

  3. jim murray

    Yale may have caved this week, but at the same time gave the go ahead to “How Fatima Started Islam: Mohammad’s Daughter Tells It All”. Noor Barack’s book pulls no punches. Did you know that Mohammad was a drunken, child molesting pimp who poorly ran Mohammad’s Saloon & Brothel?

    Ridiculous hilarious to some and deadly blaphemous to others. Is this First Amendment versus Fatwa?

  4. Allan Cohen

    Jytte Klausen’s book is so mild. Wait for the radicals to discover a book published this week on Noor Barack’s “How Fatima Started Islam: Mohammad’s Daughter Tells It All” is page after page of blasphemous defaming of Islam and about every tenet of the religion. Mohammad is depicted as a stupid, drunken, child molesting pimp who owns Mohammad’s Saloon & Brothel. Fatima his daughter secretly controls him and directs the religion for monetary gain and power. Everything is lampooned, even the first words of the Qu’ran which are very gross.

    A photo of an old man who looks disgusting is on the back cover with the name Mohammad under it. This book is begging for a fatwa.

    Jim Murray

  5. Nat

    Art– you’re missing the point. Again. There’s no evidence anywhere that any academic pressure had much to do with this. From the NYT:

    “So Yale University and Yale University Press consulted two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism, and the recommendation was unanimous: The book, “The Cartoons That Shook the World,” should not include the 12 Danish drawings that originally appeared in September 2005. What’s more, they suggested that the Yale press also refrain from publishing any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children’s book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante’s “Inferno” that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí.”

    That doesn’t seem like political correctness to me, it seems like a bunch of people who know what they’re talking about made a reasoned if tough decision. Professor Klausen should be disappointed, and I am too, but there are reasons to remove the images that don’t have to deal with political correctness.

    Yale UP is technically a department at Yale, but is autonomous both financially and operationally according to its website. While I wouldn’t be surprised if Yale professors had a say, they don’t have enough clout on their own to force changes against the will of Yale UP.

    It seems to me like you’re really stretching to accuse the university of political correctness. Given that there’s no evidence for this other than it vaguely fitting a pattern (and the pattern is often “I’m pissed I can’t say whatever I want whenever I want regardless of the personal or historical context of my words” I think that you need to step back and reevaluate your charges.

  6. Sara M.

    FYI– the American Association of University Professors has responded in a very definitive way on this:

    “ ‘ We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands.’ That is effectively the new policy position at Yale University Press…”

  7. Art

    ah. I skimmed and saw Yale, and totally took the title-Brandeis professor-out of consideration. I don’t know to what degree the Yale university Press is associated with the university of the same name, but I would not be surprised if academic pressures in general prompted this. such are the woes of political correctness

  8. Nat

    Arthur– what support do you have for your claim that the removal of the images was done at the request of the MES department? I’m not finding any evidence for this with a quick Google search, though I’m not an expert on this subject by any means.
    Considering the controversy is entirely about the depiction of Muhammed, replicating the material does indeed support the free speech side of the argument, since any depiction of Muhammed is exactly the problem. Doing so even under the guise of letting people make their own decisions about the content is missing the point, since doing so implies that providing a neutral source is indeed acceptable and covered under free speech.
    This is different from something like “Piss Christ” ( where the photographer would be criticized as a blasphemer, but as a whole the art community was allowed to exhibit it (though this was not entirely true, since lawsuits and violence took place to stop it from being shown as well) because the moral responsibility is put on the blasphemer (Serrano) instead of the person displaying blasphemous images. While the Muhammed cartoons are blasphemous for depicting Muhammed at all, and thus any piece displaying them would also be guilty, in “Piss Christ” the weight of sin lies on Serrano for submerging the crucifix in urine and photographing it, not on someone who displays the picture. The Muhammed cartoons are a special case where depicting controversial material is inherently supporting it, since that depiction would have to be covered under free speech in order to be acceptable.

    Phil– The images are easily available on Google Image Search. Anyone who is interested in the subject has either seen them or can find them so easily that their actual presence in the book is unnecessary.

    In light of the recent killings of Dr. Tiller, I wonder how anyone can really condemn Yale UP for not showing images of Muhammed. People have died over this and other controversial issues, and to think that someone or a group of people is obligated to risk their lives or the lives of those close to them in order to defend free speech is neglecting the tangible danger that taking such an action would bring. Would you publish the cartoons? What would your family think about that? Your friends? Your (future) spouse and children? Can one really be expected to abdicate their responsibilities to others by putting their own life at risk in order to advocate an ideology which we as Westerners clearly support to some degree or another?

  9. This is a real shame. How are you supposed to effectively weigh the issues brought up in the book if you cannot view the images yourself? Any description of them is going to have bias. You need the primary source.

  10. Nelson R

    Klausen was my favorite professor at Brandeis. She is one of the very, very few who actually reads the news and is competent enough to debate with other intellectuals. The others were great at yelling at children – she offered to go head to head with Pipes. There was quite a difference.

    Yale is for wimps

  11. Arthur

    You ought not be so surprised. This was probably done at the request and pressure of the university’s middle eastern studies departments, by faculty who assume that replicating controversial material is so support it.