Mohammed Cartoon Controversy: FIRE Response to Intimidation and Newspaper Disputes

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Century College University of Arizona Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute New York University University of Chicago Northern Illinois University University of Wisconsin – Madison University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill Harvard University Purdue University University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

As a result of worldwide controversy regarding caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, first published in a Danish newspaper, free speech was being openly disregarded on American college campuses. In the weeks following the printing of the cartoon, students, professors, and student publications not only reprinted the controversial cartoons but even created their own satirical cartoons depicting Mohammed. Chilling of speech in relation to the cartoon was found at Century College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and New York University, amongst others.

  • When Speech Becomes a Crime

    June 28, 2006

    Roman Catholic Robert Smith is fired from an appointment on the Washington Metro transit authority board by Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich for the crime of saying that he doesn’t approve of homosexuality. Journalist and author Oriana Fallaci cannot visit her native country of Italy for fear of being thrown in prison because of a lawsuit brought against her by the Italian Muslim Union for the crime of “defaming Islam.” British neo-Nazi David Irving is sentenced to three years in prison in Austria for a 1989 speech in which he committed the crime of Holocaust denial. College Republican Steve Hinkle is […]

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  • U.S. media response to cartoons skewered

    April 26, 2006

    As dozens gathered Tuesday night in a University of Chicago lecture hall to discuss the visceral and sometimes violent reaction to cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim students who had been invited decided to watch a movie across campus instead. The three-man panel discussion, organized by the university’s chapter of the Objectivist Club, mainly focused on the U.S. media’s reluctance to reprint the cartoons, first published in Denmark in September. Panelist Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said the issue was simple: Journalists are afraid. “There’s a lot of dishonesty” in the media’s explanation […]

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  • ‘Free speech’ cries ring hollow on college campuses and beyond

    April 19, 2006

    by Nat Hentoff USA Today   Karen Murdock is an adjunct professor of geography and earth science at Century College, a two-year community college in White Bear Lake, Minn.She often posts news articles and blank comment sheets on a faculty bulletin board that she says she hopes students read and argue about — and thereby think beyond White Bear Lake into the world.In February, she posted an array of the inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that offended not only Muslim students but also college administrators. Murdock’s exercise of free speech was eventually silenced, yet her cause echoes well beyond […]

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  • Months after flap, Muhammad cartoon re-emerges

    April 11, 2006

    The bomb has finally dropped at Princeton. After months of controversy surrounding the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, editors of a student magazine have reprinted the cartoon on the cover of their latest issue. Describing the cartoon as “one of the least viewed but most influential images in history” in an editors’ note, American Foreign Policy (AFP) coeditors Nicholas Cox ’08 and Kent Kuran ’08 “were surprised at how few people had actually seen the cartoon,” Cox said in an interview yesterday. “Since it’s the news story itself, we felt obligated to […]

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  • Speech codes choke off discourse, satire

    April 6, 2006

    Higher-education institutions are no longer havens for free intellectual discussion and open debate. Since public universities have lost nearly every court battle over clearly identified speech codes, administrators have developed stealthier ways to regulate unwanted speech. These covert speech codes are hidden in university handbooks under seemingly harmless provisions such as e-mail guidelines, diversity statements and harassment policies. Even though these policies aren’t identified as “speech codes,” university administrators are still able to use them to repress unpopular opinions, censor parodies, hinder political speech and restrict academic freedom. Some people may be surprised that there is no right to not […]

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  • The image of hypocrisy

    March 29, 2006

    The 8”-by-10” photograph was hard to miss. Appearing on page A-3 of the Sunday New York Times on March 19, the black-and-white image of Erno Nussenzweig — a retired New Jersey diamond merchant and a member of the orthodox-Jewish Hasidic sect — stared out at readers just cracking open the morning paper. Taken in Times Square in 1999 by artist Philip-Lorca diCorcia, the picture hung in a well-received 2002 exhibition of diCorcia’s work at Chelsea’s Pace/MacGill Gallery, and it appears in the show’s exhibition catalogue. Nussenzweig, however, was not pleased with this notoriety: like virtually all ultra-orthodox Jews, he embraces […]

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  • Images offensive to Muslims are debated

    March 14, 2006

    Charles Mitchell sat before a full-color blowup of the most notorious of the newspaper cartoons that have roiled the Islamic world – the one that shows the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb – and said that how it makes Muslims feel was beside the point. “There is no right not to be offended,” Mitchell, a program officer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told an audience of about 80 last night at the Johns Hopkins University. “Having your most deeply held convictions questioned doesn’t destroy you. It doesn’t turn you into a […]

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  • College Urged to Stop Censoring Prof’s Display of Muslim Cartoons

    March 13, 2006

    FIRE Demands Minnesota Campus Officials Allow Free Exchange of Ideas by Jim Brown Agape Press Century College in Minnesota is being accused of wrongly censoring a geography professor who posted controversial cartoons of Muhammad that were originally published in a Danish newspaper and which have sparked outrage among Muslims worldwide. Early last month, adjunct professor of geography Karen Murdock posted the cartoons on a hallway bulletin board near her office in an attempt to allow students who might not have seen the cartoons an opportunity to evaluate them. However, the drawings were torn down repeatedly. Murdock says at one point […]

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  • Professor Fears Retribution Over Mohammed Cartoons

    March 10, 2006

    A part-time professor at Century College in Minnesota is under fire from students and the school administration for posting copies of the now-infamous Mohammed cartoons on a college bulletin board. Karen Murdock, an adjunct professor of geography, first posted the cartoons on a community board on Feb. 7, along with related newspaper articles about the controversy and blank paper for students and faculty comments. According to Murdock, the cartoons were torn down repeatedly, and she was told by college administrators not to repost them. In a letter to Murdock on Feb. 16, Vice President for Academic Affairs John O’Brien said […]

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  • Professor censored over Muhammad cartoons

    March 10, 2006

    An adjunct college professor in Minnesota who repeated posted copies of the Muhammad cartoons that sparked deadly riots worldwide says her rights have been violated by school officials who failed to prevent the display from being repeatedly torn down and pressured her into not reposting the images on campus. Professor Karen Murdock is a geography teacher at Century College in White Bear Lake, Minn. She says she posted the cartoons on a bulletin board used by faculty so members so the campus community could see what the global controversy was all about.   According to a statement from the Foundation […]

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  • Mohammed cartoon backlash hits Century College

    February 10, 2006

    The worldwide controversy regarding caricatures of the prophet Mohammed has reached White Bear Lake, though thus far with nonviolent results. Dozens of Muslim students at Century College — a two-year community college — protested to administrators this week about a display of the infamous caricatures, first published in a Danish newspaper, on a campus bulletin board. Karen Murdock, a part-time geography and earth science instructor who posted the cartoons — surrounded by news articles about the topic and blank “comment” sheets — said she simply wanted to spark discussion by allowing others to see the cartoons first-hand. But the postings, […]

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  • Is Nothing Sacred? Comedy Central Joins Many Universities in Caving to Threats of Violence for Depictions of Mohammed

    April 23, 2010

    Comedy Central’s cartoon hit South Park is famous for its shocking and offensive humor, targeted at subjects ranging from Queen Elizabeth to Scientology. The show’s renowned satire takes an unapologetic attitude towards goring sacred cows, and fans have come to regard South Park‘s principled stance on free speech as sacred in and of itself. This week, however, Comedy Central created headlines around the world by censoring a portion of a South Park episode. The episode continued last week’s plotline depicting Mohammed in a bear suit, which is considered blasphemous by some followers of Islam. Comedy Central’s usually laissez-faire approach to […]

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  • Objectivists host panel on Danish cartoons

    November 30, 2006

    Approximately 75 students and community members attended a panel discussion Tuesday about freedom of speech in the context of the controversy over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad. The panelists spoke and took questions from the audience for nearly three hours. Entitled “Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons,” the panel event featured speakers Yaron Brook, president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute; Tom Flynn, the editor of Free Inquiry magazine; and Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. According to Rebecca Knapp, a fourth-year in the College and vice president of the Objectivist Club, […]

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  • NYU Surrenders to the Heckler’s Veto in Mohammed Cartoon Dispute

    March 29, 2006

    NEW YORK, March 29, 2006—In violation of its own policies, New York University (NYU) is refusing to allow a student group to show the Danish cartoons of Mohammed at a public event tonight. Even though the purpose of the event is to show and discuss the cartoons, an administrator has suddenly ordered the students either not to display them or to exclude 150 off-campus guests from attending. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is urging NYU’s president to reverse course and stand up for freedom of speech. “NYU’s actions are inexcusable,” declared FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, who is […]

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  • Minnesota Prof Censored for Posting Mohammed Cartoons

    March 9, 2006

    MINNEAPOLIS, March 9, 2006—The uproar over cartoons of the prophet Mohammed may be fading in some places, but not at Century College in Minnesota. After repeatedly encountering censorship of her display of the cartoons on a hallway bulletin board, Professor Karen Murdock finally posted them behind a curtain so that passers-by would not be offended. Yet even after assuring Murdock and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that free speech is valued at Century, administrators allowed censors to tear down the hidden cartoons and insisted that she not put them back up. “Karen Murdock bent over backwards to […]

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  • Specifics on Max P. cartoon incident still cloudy

    February 24, 2006

    Details remain unclear as to whether disciplinary action will be taken against a Hoover House resident who posted a homemade sketch of the Muslim prophet Muhammad on the door of his suite two weeks ago. Accompanied by the caption “Mo’ Mohammed, Mo’ Problems,” the drawing prompted strong reactions from Muslim students on campus and, more recently, attracted the attention of free speech advocates. Katie Callow-Wright, director of undergraduate student housing, said that although details on the status of the case could not be discussed, the process of addressing such complaints involves a series of discussions and careful review. “When a […]

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  • Mohammed Cartoon Controversy Sweeps the Academy

    February 22, 2006

    PHILADELPHIA, February 22, 2006—The global controversy over cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed has now struck American college campuses. In response, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) issued a statement today reminding colleges and universities that free speech needs protection now—in the face of ongoing controversy—more than ever.   “It is when expression is most hotly contested and the calls for suppression are the loudest that we must defend liberty the most fervently,” said FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff. “I am reminded of the infinitely wise words of Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson: ‘Freedom to differ is not limited […]

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  • FIRE Statement on Cartoons Depicting Mohammed

    February 22, 2006

    The international controversy surrounding the printing of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed has been historic in scale: dozens have been killed, riots and protests have taken place all over the world, death threats have been issued against the cartoonists, and some newspapers have openly admitted that they will not publish the cartoons for fear of violent reprisal. It was only a matter of time before a controversy of such magnitude reached America’s college campuses. In recent weeks, students, professors, and student publications have not only reprinted the controversial cartoons but even created their own satirical cartoons depicting Mohammed. As this […]

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  • Prophet cartoon on door prompts action

    February 17, 2006

    A student in Hoover House faces possible disciplinary action from the University after posting a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad on a dormitory door. The incident, which occurred early last week, follows the recent expulsion of two students from Hitchcock House after one wrote racist and anti-Semitic remarks on the other’s whiteboard. The drawing in Hoover featured a crudely sketched figure accompanied by the caption “Mo’ Mohammed, Mo’ Problems,” in reference to the recent worldwide protests of the Muhammad cartoons. It was drawn on a sheet of paper and posted on the outside door of the student’s suite facing […]

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  • STAFF EDITORIAL: Mind the Gap

    February 15, 2006

    As a newspaper The Communicator has an obligation to report the whole story. The Communicator has decided to print the 12 cartoons based on the fact that they are newsworthy and the public deserves the entire story behind the world-wide violence. We have no malicious intent.   Our intent is to inform the public.   As journalists—aspiring college students or not—it is our duty to inform our readers. By showing the cartoons, we believe it will stir conversation on campus and in the community.   Less than a handful of national newspapers have printed one, a few, or all of […]

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  • Salient Publishes Danish Cartoons

    February 14, 2006

    With riots raging across the Muslim world over the publication of Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the editors of The Harvard Salient republished four of the cartoons in the paper’s Feb. 8 edition, angering a number of student groups.   Asserting that they would not “[cater] to a sensitivity borne of fear of death that has plagued many would-be critics of Islam,” the editors of the biweekly conservative paper printed the cartoons—including one in which Muhammad’s turban takes the shape of a bomb—juxtaposed with anti-Semitic cartoons from papers in the Middle East.   In the editorial printed next to […]

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  • School editors say they were suspended for running Islamic cartoons

    February 14, 2006

    The editor in chief of a student-led newspaper serving the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been suspended for printing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that, when published in Europe, enraged Muslims and led to violent protests in the Middle East and Asia. Editor Acton Gorton and his opinions editor, Chuck Prochaska, were relieved of their duties at The Daily Illini on Tuesday while a task force investigates “the internal decision-making and communication” that led to the publishing of the cartoons, according to a statement by the newspaper’s publisher and general manager, Mary Cory. Gorton said he expects to be […]

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  • Sacred images, sacred rights

    February 13, 2006

    The intellectual evolution of mankind best proceeds when conditioned upon the fundamental belief that there must be a marketplace of ideas, open to all forms of thought ranging from the agreeable to the offensive to the far-fetched. It is upon this premise that the First Amendment was so deftly scribed in the 18th century, and it is upon this premise that much of the maturation of the world has come to include similar declarations of a right to free speech checked only by decidedly minimal restrictions. It is in this vein that we look upon a dozen controversial Danish cartoons, […]

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  • More Than Cartoons

    February 13, 2006

    As the Muslim cartoon riots continue to escalate around the world, the Muslim-American community in the area is not without response. “Our initial reaction was to condemn the publication of the cartoons and condemn the violent reactions in the Muslim world,” said Ahmed Rehab, director of communication for the Chicago Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations. In Sept. 2005, a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, printed a series of cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad. In response, Muslims around the world demonstrated anger in protests and deadly riots. The Danish newspaper and government defended the right to print the cartoons on the grounds […]

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  • Cartoon Controversy in Chapel Hill

    February 10, 2006

    A political cartoon in a student newspaper is triggering protests on campus.   UNC-Chapel Hill’s Muslim Students Association is demanding an apology after a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed appeared in the Daily Tar Heel newspaper.   “It’s very disrespectful, and I find it racist,” said student Rafsan Khan, a Muslim. “I find it discrimination, too.”   Similar cartoons have incited violent riots for the last week around the world. Muslims held protests around the world Friday, denouncing cartoons they say defame Mohammed. Muslims believe it is forbidden to portray any images of the prophet. Many news organizations will not […]

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  • Political Cartoon

    February 7, 2006

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