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Potentially Violent Religious Nuts 1, Yale 0

Violent Muslim religious nuts have won another battle against liberty and free speech, and this time they didn’t even have to do anything. Just because some ignorant, violent, backwards religious nuts might protest over a picture of the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, Yale University Press has decided not to publish a picture of the cartoons in a book about the…controversy over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad. Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen’s The Cartoons that Shook the World won’t contain the images that the book is about. Go, Yale!

I’ve been reading up on this story since a kind reader sent it to me. Lately I’ve been trying to avoid reading the news because much of it is so annoying, but fortunately I have readers to drag me back into the world. The story was all over the place in the last week, so you’ve probably already noticed it. Though the press claimed to have consulted many "experts" who unanimously thought publishing the cartoons might incite violence, most of the literate, liberal democratic, civilized, academic world seems appalled by the decision. The American Association of University Professors was not amused, and issued a statement claiming the decision abridges academic freedom. In this case, I think they’re right.

One might think the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom would issue a statement on this. Surely, if one Christian religious nut in East Dungheap , GA complaining that her library has a book that doesn’t make fun of gay people is "censorship," then an untold number of potentially violent Muslim religious nuts around the world causing a formerly respectable university press from publishing some cartoons is "censorship." It’s certainly an assault against our intellectual freedom.

It always seems to be the case that before some cowardly or hypocritical group suppresses free expression, they begin by howling that they are an "institution deeply committed to free expression." That’s what Yale claims, anyway. They’re so deeply committed that they suppress the free expression of their own authors and cower in fear at the sight of nonexistent protesters because of the advice of mostly unnamed "experts."  According to the NY Post, "Adding insult to injury, the Yale Press’s director, John Donatich, only allowed Klausen to read a summary of the experts’ recommendations if she signed a gag order that barred her from discussing them." Go Yale!

And who are these "experts"? According to the Yale Daily News, "One of the experts, Ibrahim Gabmari, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Senior Adviser to the Secretary General, said in a statement provided by Yale that ‘You can count on violence if any illustration of the Prophet is published. It will cause riots I predict from Indonesia to Nigeria.’" Um, okay.

Even if Gabmari isn’t an idiot, why should Yale U Press care about some riots in places like Indonesia and Nigeria? It’s not like all Muslims turn violent. Only ignorant savages turn violent if a picture is published. If ignorant savages in Indonesia and Nigeria want to protest, then let them. If they want to turn violent and foul their own nest, then let them. Since when do scholars cater to the whims of ignorant savages?

Of course, it should be obvious even to "experts" that if a bunch of ignorant religious nuts in Nigeria or Indonesia protest over the publication of cartoons in this book, it’s not exactly a spontaneous uprising from concerned Muslims. None of the alleged potential protesters in those countries will have even seen this book, and neither will the alleged potential savage demagogues who will lead these alleged potential protests. Yale is suppressing academic freedom and free expression because of the potential of mob violence halfway around the world. These wouldn’t even be ignorant mobs yelling and burning their stupid signs through the streets of New Haven.

There is some conspiratorial talk, though, that Yale isn’t afraid of some ignorant savages in Indonesia killing each other. Instead, the rumor is that Yale doesn’t want to endanger its investments in the Middle East. I’m not sure if it’s better to sacrifice intellectual freedom because of hypocritical cowardice or money, but I don’t see that it matters either way.

I’m sure no library group will protest this. I’ve been writing about this issue off and on for a while, and too often I’ve gotten the same cowardly, hypocritical response from librarians as Yale has offered. Usually the librarians try to be nice about it, though. Of course they’re dedicated to free expression and intellectual freedom and all that claptrap, but one has to be "sensitive" and not offend Islam, as if anyone is responsible for violent Muslims protesting except the violent Muslims themselves.

It’s the terrorist logic one sees all the time in movie plots. The terrorist says, "do this or I kill people, and the blood will be on your hands!" That’s complete bunk, as any reasonable and intelligent person will spot immediately, but these violent fanatics aren’t reasonable or intelligent. Reasonable and intelligent people don’t become fundamentalists, since fundamentalism is the abandonment of reason.

If you kill someone protesting, the blood is on your hands, moron, not Yale’s. It should be clear that Yale U Press publishing these cartoons wouldn’t be the cause of any violence. If there were any protests and any violence, it would be the fault of the ignorant, irrational savages protesting.

I don’t know why I’m bothering to comment on this. Probably no library organization is going to protest Yale’s decision. Whether it’s through cowardice, hypocrisy, or terrorist logic, groups from the ALA to the SRRT to the PLG will either remain silent or condone Yale’s decision. When writing about the cartoons years ago, I recall the position of one nitwit regressive librarian who didn’t think the cartoons should be protected because they were deliberately published to offend Muslims. The commitment to intellectual freedom too often stops just after someone says, "I am committed to intellectual freedom."

Maybe ACRL will step up to the plate. Academic librarians at least should be completely appalled by this, and surely academic and intellectual freedom and the integrity of scholarly work is more important than Catcher in the Rye.

Contact the AL:



  1. Just goes to prove Dawkins’ assertion that we need to stop being so “respectful” of religion. Why on earth does religion demand and receive such “respect”? It’s atrocious.

  2. New Jack Librarian says:

    Harper’s Magazine republished the cartoons in June, 2006.

    If librarians want to step up to the plate, another thing they can do is ask EBSCO, Gale, Proquest, and WilsonWeb why the pdf of this article is missing from their databases.

  3. I strongly object to your characterization of “potentially violent religious nuts” — I believe the word “religious” is enough to cover it: it’s a given that they always have that potential.

  4. tjwilliams says:


    Thanks for thread-jacking us with your own particular brand of retardation.

    As far as the Yale situation is concerned, it certainly raises my ire, but the fact that I know nobody in a position to do anything is really going to care about it lessens my activist spirit. My question is: where is the author in all of this? Surely if he (she?) thought it was a big deal he could just take his book to Harvard.

  5. Dances With Books says:

    I have to agree with you AL. One podunk town has a few Christian nutjobs complaining about some book that may portray gays, and ALA is all over it. This, which is certainly more significant and substantial, and not a single peep. Indeed, I think it is high time we stop this whole “respect religion” nonsense as Dawkins advocates. They use fear to keep information out of a book. I mean, a book discussing certain cartoon without images? What other academic topic would get away with something similar? It’s high time our profession stops “being nice” and actually takes a stand for the intellectual freedom they claim to defend.

  6. fat and grumpy says:

    You know, tjwilliams has something. If the author feels that the book is so trivial that the subject matter it analyzes does need to appear along side the analysis, why should we care? Or buy it?

    Another way of protesting for intellectual integrity, don’t buy crappy research.

  7. Hopeless Snob says:

    “Since when do scholars cater to the whims of ignorant savages?” I think it’s called freshman comp.

  8. A book about the cartoons that doesn’t include the cartoons is absurd. The people at Yale are idiots and the author is a coward for accepting it. Furthermore, just because the cartoons can be seen widely now doesn’t mean that will be the case forever.

  9. Well, Fat and Grumpy, would you buy a book dedicated to discussions of the Mona Lisa if it never once reproduced an image of it? In many cases pictures plus 1,000 words equal far more than just 2,000 words.

  10. another f-ing librarian says:

    i could rant and rant about this, but i won’t. i’ll just say:

    without the images under discussion, the book is not useful. i shall therefore discourage my institution from going to the bother of acquiring a copy.

  11. As a private institution and publisher, Yale can do whatever they want, even if they want to be lily livered pc pantywaists. They have every right to do it.

    And get hammered for doing it too.

  12. I Like Books says:

    I remember reading about those cartoons in the newspaper. It said a number of caricatures of Mohammed were published, including one where he had a bomb for a turban. And that Palestinian gunmen immediately started searching hotels for foreigners. I suspect the irony was lost on them. But if you see rampaging Muslim gunmen often enough, you can’t help but associate Islam with rampaging gunmen.

    South Park was going to do an episode on Mohammed, but Comedy Central told them no, we don’t want to get blown up. The creators said they respected the administration for not pulling out “sensitivity” or “multiculturalism”. They didn’t want to get blown up, and that’s what they said.

  13. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    I agree this is standard stupidly from the leftist academia, but I think something should be said in the author’s defense. This decision to remove the cartoons was probably done after she signed her contract as an editor decision. Writing contracts are getting very controlling. I just signed one were I had to agree not to talk about the articles details or the contract (I wonder if I violated it just now) Second as an editorial decision she protested but lost. In the end she was also forced to keep her mouth shut on the whole decision making process. While the blood may never be on Yale’s hands the academic fall out will be. Its all ready very hard to study any controversial subject now it will ten times harder. So much for academic freedom!

  14. Don’t buy the book. Don’t let your institution buy the book.

  15. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “Nothing is worse than Active Ignorance”–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

  16. I’m glad I didn’t waste my college money on Yale.

  17. Eyeball rollin' librarian says:

    “I agree this is standard stupidly from the leftist academia” – word.

  18. There now seems to be a tint of religion-bashing here. Why not address the one topic at hand: Islam. The original cartoon was a critique against Islam and its violent tendencies going back to its founder. The critique is not against “religion”. One person commented that religious people always tend toward being “potentially violent”. Anybody who holds a strong view on something has a potential to become violent about it. Name the topic strongly held, and you’ll see fanatics. The more subtle debate, and the one I hope more than a few xcould grasp here, is which religions teach violence as a tenent, and which don’t, and which do sometimes and don’t sometimes. They’re not all the same, nor equally true. As for Yale, they’re being PC cowards. The question is how much they are willing to tow the PC lines. All the way to violence?

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