Cartoon controversy returns to campus

It seems that “The Cartoons that Shook the World” may shake Yale’s campus again.

Both Jytte Klausen, the author of the book about the violence surrounding Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, and Kurt Westergaard, the original author of one of those cartoons, will be on campus Thursday. The events, each organized separately, will occur at different times and different locations.

In Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen’s
In Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen’s "The Cartoons that Shook the World,” an account of the polemic that ensued after a Danish newspaper published 12 caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, the cartoons in question the text are conspicuously absent.

Westergaard, whose visit to campus has been promoted by the International Free Press Society, will speak in conversation with Branford College Master Steven Smith, though the Master’s Tea will be held at the Greenberg Conference Center on Prospect Street. University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said the event was moved from the college because of security concerns and said the Yale Police Department is arranging appropriate protection for the event. Westergaard’s cartoon depicted the prophet with a bomb in his turban.

The Yale Muslim Students Association said in a statement that its members are “deeply hurt and offended” by the decision to invite Westergaard to speak, but the group will not protest at the event. MSA president Tariq Mahmoud ’11 said the group plans on attending the event and asking “critical and probing questions” during the question and answer session after the talk.

“As an institution purportedly committed to making our campus an educational environment where all students feel equally comfortable, we feel that by hosting Kurt Westergaard Yale is undermining its commitment to creating a nurturing learning environment by failing to recognize the religious and racial sensitivity of the issue,” the group said. “Certainly, it would be unlikely for a white supremacist or a holocaust denier to be a distinguished guest speaker at Yale; hosting individuals who propagate hate is not only a disservice to the minorities that hate is directed towards but to the campus community as a whole.”

The MSA is also planning on organizing a panel to discuss the cartoons, Mahmoud added.

On the other hand a group of Muslim students not affiliated with the MSA is planning a protest, said Faez Syed ’10, one of the organizers. He said that while they still have to confirm some of the details, a small group of students will picket the event.

“It’s our opinion that it’s more hate speech rather than free speech,” Syed said of the decision to invite Westergaard.

Lorimer said, though, that “an invitation to speak on campus doesn’t imply any institutional support for the speaker. It indicates, instead, a commitment to let all views be aired.”

She said the University does not involve itself in a professor’s decision to invite a speaker to campus except in situations where there is a threat to safety. Lorimer cited the 1975 Woodward Report on free expression at Yale in explaining the importance of hearing a wide range of views on campus.

“The banning or obstruction of lawful speech can never be justified on such grounds as that the speech or the speaker is deemed irresponsible, offensive, unscholarly or untrue,” the report said.

Because of the controversy surrounding the cartoons, the University has provided for extra security measures and the YPD has been working with the city, state and federal law enforcement officials to ensure safety.

In an e-mail to Branford students, Smith said that students will only be admitted with a ticket that will be checked against a Yale ID. Students will have to take a bus that will depart from the Branford master’s house and leave backpacks, bookbags, purses and cell phones behind. The event is intended for Branford students and affiliates, Smith wrote in the e-mail.

A few hours after Westergaard speaks, Klausen will air her views in a lecture at Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall. Her talk is entitled “Blasphemy and Inquiry: ‘The Cartoons That Shook the World’” and is sponsored by the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism. Klausen’s book initially incited a controversy in August after the Yale University Press and the University decided not to publish any images of the prophet Muhammad in the book about the 2005 violence that erupted over the publication of the Danish cartoons.

Klausen said it was a complete coincidence that she and Westergaard will be on campus at the same time, and said she only learned about it from a report in a newspaper.

“When I learned about it my jaw dropped to the floor,” Klausen said in an interview.

Klausen said it is “unfortunately” the case that there will probably be protestors at Westergaard’s talk. She said she has spoken with Westergaard previously and will say “hello” if she can arrange it with security.

“I think you will all find him quite congenial and funny,” she said. “But, I’m not a great fan of the politicization of this issue.”

Comments

  • Reuben Barrientes

    Hum. Interesting stuff. I wonder what it’s like having to deal with all that.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    Hate speech IS free speech.

  • robert99

    Considering the last few years’ “track record” of muslim extremists, cartoons seem pretty mild.

  • LMAOCOPTER

    @ “the lesser COPTER”: Tell that to the US constitution.

  • The Contrarian

    Funny how none of the Muslim students say anything about the violent reaction TO the cartoons. Guess they should be “comfortable” since anyone who disagrees will simply have his throat slit.

  • Pseudonym

    Of course if I draw a fat businessman with a star of David, I am an anti Semite but if I draw the prophet with a bomb in his turban I am a propagator and champion of free speech. What hypocrisy!

  • Knowledgeable

    Considering the last few years track record of American imperialism, Muslim extremists seem pretty mild.

  • Y11
  • BW

    Yale’s “Lux et Veritas” and the First Amendment are precariously close to being officially sanctioned as secondary to religious sensitivity.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    The cartoonist is obviously a huge douchebag. And I wouldn’t want him to speak at Yale.

    EXCEPT, of course, that I want to stick it to the people who think they can intimidate free speech out of existence by slitting a few throats and bombing a few embassies.

  • Christian

    If people could only turn the other cheek.
    Insulting any religion is not a good thing and should be avoided.

  • Dear “Christian”

    Other activities that should “be avoided” I assume, are murder and mayhem, terrorism, and threats of nuclear destruction in the name of Allah … or is this “turn the other cheek” business only a rule that applies to our side?

  • a man of tolerance

    interesting that moderate muslims, like those on our campus, get all upset about a cartoon, yet say NOTHING about muslim terror against men, women, and children
    done in the name of Allah in NYC, London, Madrid, Paris (the lynching of the French Jewish boy), Jerusalem, Bali, Mumbai, Kabul, etc. and what about the so-called “honor killings” even in the United States…

    methinks- they just want to take over the world and impose sharia and put women in burqas and gays behind bars.

  • BR’11

    as a non-muslim, i’m pretty sure most moderate muslims are not silent on those issues. and as intelligent people, aren’t we supposed to be above this petty bashing, fear mongering.

    yes, everyone agrees Islamic terrorism is evil. But how do petty caricatures really make the world a better place? Many of the comments on this board distress me. Issues of this import require thoughtful conversation without resorting to insulting stereotypes and alienating rhetoric.

  • yalie in europe

    i am sorry to disagree with BR’11:

    NOT everyone (in fact, a plurality of muslims in the west and a vast majority of muslims in dar al-islam) agrees that Islamic terrorism is evil.

    until the MAJORITY of Muslims SPEAK out and ACT out against Islamic terror, the entire world will be engulfed with Muslim terrorism.

    the leader of that Muslim non-violence/tolerance movement surely would deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.

    i am afraid, from my perch now in Europe, that will be a long, long, long time.

  • also in europe

    “As an institution purportedly committed to making our campus an educational environment where all students feel equally comfortable, we feel that by hosting Kurt Westergaard Yale is undermining its commitment to creating a nurturing learning environment by failing to recognize the religious and racial sensitivity of the issue, the group said.”

    Aw, whip out the violins, boys! But I have some advice for these Brainiacs: DON’T ATTEND THE LECTURE! Problem solved!

    Of course the reality is, they’re not worried about being “offended.” They’re worried about their fellow students hearing a point of view they don’t like! It is very much about free speech, and about controlling speech they don’t like.

    “Certainly, it would be unlikely for a white supremacist or a holocaust denier to be a distinguished guest speaker at Yale; hosting individuals who propagate hate is not only a disservice to the minorities that hate is directed towards but to the campus community as a whole.”

    Let’s compare like to like here. Forget “white supremacists.” If Yale wanted to invite a guest to dispute ANY OTHER RELIGION, ranging from some fringe cult to Catholicism, no one would have a problem with it. It’s only Islam that’s off-limits.

    As far as Kurt Westergaard, he’s fortunate he doesn’t have to stay in hiding like Salman Rushdie. Certainly the invective being directed towards him by these students and others doesn’t help.

    And notice that the Muslims, as usual, are protesting a cartoonist and a writer, NOT the religious intolerance and violence of their own comrades around the world!

  • PC Propaganda

    I’m sure everyone is quite cognizant by now that the “religion of peace” label is just a big pile of BS PC propaganda worthy of Goebbels.

    Funny how events in which Muslims have been “insulted” always require high security. People are afraid of the potential for violence by Muslims, and rightfully so.