The controversy surrounding images of the prophet Muhammad by Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard continued this week when Duke University professor Gary Hull published a book reprinting the images.
Yale University Press made a decision in August not to print the images, which incited riots when they were first printed in a Danish newspaper in 2005, in the book “The Cartoons That Shook the World” by Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen, which was published in October. Hull’s new book, “Muhammad: The ‘Banned’ Images,” contains the visual content excluded from Klausen’s book, as well as a statement emphasizing the importance of free speech and deploring Yale’s decision to censor the images.
“When an academic institution of such standing asserts the need to suppress scholarly work because of a theoretical possibility of violence somewhere in the world, it grants legitimacy to censorship and casts serious doubt on their, and our, commitment to freedom of expression in general, and academic freedom in particular,” the statement says. “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety … will get neither liberty nor safety.”
Yale University Press said in an August 2009 statement that it had decided to publish Klausen’s book without the images to avoid the violence that has resulted every time the cartoons have been printed in the past. The Press declined to comment Tuesday on the new book containing the cartoons.
University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer wrote in a e-mail Tuesday that Yale and the Press examined the matter extensively earlier in the year, consulting numerous experts, most of whom advised against republishing the cartoons. Lorimer pointed to an incident in October, when two men were arrested in Chicago for plotting terrorist attacks against multiple European targets, including the Danish newspaper that originally published the cartoons.
“The Oct. 27 arrests of two Chicago men for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks against targets associated with these cartoons is evidence that this threat is far from speculative,” Lorimer wrote. “This controversy remains very real.”
Klausen disagrees with Yale’s decision to censor her book as a preventative measure, she wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. She said she does not think the release of Hull’s book makes up for this mistake, but respects his right to exercise his free speech.
“My illustrations were put together for an instructional purpose — to show the cartoons, as well as the history of portrayal of Muhammad in Western art and in Islamic art,” she said. “I want my illustrations back in my book, not circulating as a protest.”
Klausen also said she is concerned Hull has represented her as collaborator on his project, when she has nothing to do with it. Though she has not seen his new book, she said she knows he has not printed the complete set of images stripped from hers because she has proprietary rights to several of them, which he has not purchased.
The forward to “Muhammad: The ‘Banned’ Images” is a preliminary draft of a statement written by Hull, the director of Duke’s program on values and ethics in the marketplace, along with executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship Joan Bertin and president of the American Association of University Professors Cary Nelson, which will be released later this month.