By deciding not to reprint the 12 sketches for fear of new violence, editors of a new US book on the controversy over cartoons caricaturing Muslims and the Prophet Mohammed have triggered a storm.
"The Cartoons That Shook the World," due out in November by Yale University Press, examines the reaction of the Muslim world to the 2005 publication of the cartoons by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
AdvertisementAuthor Jytte Klausen, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, reluctantly agreed to cut the cartoons from the book.
"I am sad personally because I feel it is a loss to the book to be published without the illustrations. It is also sad that we have a circumstance where an academic press feels compelled to go ahead and remove these illustrations," Klausen told AFP in a telephone interview.
Other images of Mohammed were also removed, including a 19th century Gustave Dore print illustrating a passage from Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy of Mohammed in hell.
Director of Yale Press John Donatich made the decision after consulting with a "couple dozen" diplomats, intelligence and academic experts.
"I didn't feel this was a censorship issue," Donatich told AFP. "It had become a security issue," he said, adding he was concerned for the safety of Yale Press employees.
"I felt that the cartoons and the illustrations we are talking about here, they're not new information. It was gratuitous to publish them again if they were this troublesome. People were certain they would cause violence," he said.
The Mohammed cartoons originally appeared in Danish newspapers in September 2005, sparking protests across the Muslim world. Five people died in Pakistan in protests in February 2006.
But Klausen disputes the grounds for cutting out the cartoons.
"Security experts were asked to provide advice without having the manuscript, without having the context in which these illustrations were going to be reprinted," she said.
"I think it's very serious to suppress illustrations when not a single Muslim has protested the book and there were some Muslim reviewers."
In mid-August, the prestigious Yale University revealed that among the experts it had consulted were former US deputy secretary of state John Negroponte, and author and journalist Fareed Zakaria.
And in a written statement explaining Yale's to pull the cartoons, UN under secretary general Ibrahim Gambari is quoted saying: "You can count on violence if any illustration of the prophet is published. It will cause riots I predict from Indonesia to Nigeria."
Yale said the violence surrounding the cartoons continued pointing to a car bombing outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan in June 2008 which killed eight people.
"The next day Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombing, calling it revenge for the 'insulting drawings,'" it said in its statement.
But Klausen countered: "I think it is ludicrous to think that an academic book written for undergraduate students as a case study of an international relations conflict could set off civil war in Nigeria."
The actions by Yale have triggered a storm of protest in the literary world.
Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens said in the online magazine Slate it was "perhaps the worst episode in the steady surrender to religious extremism -- particularly Muslim religious extremism -- that is spreading across our culture."
And Islam scholar Reza Aslan, author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam," pulled his jacket blurb praising the book in a failed attempt to get Yale to change its mind.
Aslan said Yale's experts misunderstand the original controversy.
"It wasn't just the cartoons, it was a deliberate attempt by the newspaper in Denmark to provoke the Muslim minority in Denmark, to give them a sort of citizenship test. The cartoons were seen by two polarized camps as an argument as to whether, A, Europe is Islamophobic or, B, whether Muslims have any place in Europe," he said.
"The reason the anger erupted was because of the racism embedded in the cartoons, their deliberate provocation of the Muslim community and the way the cartoons were manipulated to say that Europe is racist. That's where the mistake lies here, to think that the cartoons in and of themselves have the power to create this global crisis," he said.
But Zakaria said he was "certain that the publication of the book would provoke violence."
"I think it is a very difficult call whenever you are contemplating any kind of restraint on freedom of expression but I think that the judgment call that Yale made is exactly the right one," he said.
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