In Interview With ‘Index on Censorship,’ Jytte Klausen Discusses Censorship of Mohammed Cartoons

By on December 22, 2009

Jytte Klausen, author of the recently published book The Cartoons That Shook the World and the subject of much controversy since the Yale University Press unilaterally decided to excise inclusion of the controversial cartoons of Mohammed central to the book’s premise, discusses the incident in the current magazine published by Index on Censorship, a British organization promoting freedom of expression.

In her engaging interview, Klausen discusses the academic background of her work and research into the subject, as well as the process by which the Yale University Press, after initially approving the publication of the book with the cartoons included, eventually reversed its decision in the face of possible threats and violence. The outrage generated by Yale’s cowardly decision has been strongly condemned by FIRE and a plethora of other national organizations.

Calling the decision "Orwellian," Klausen captures how Yale’s removal of the cartoons in an attempt to distance itself from potential controversy has done just the opposite:

My problem, and my concern, has always been to fall into the same trap that the cartoon crisis created. In other words that the whole conflict turns into the "not to print" or "to print" craziness and that’s a provocation that is not hospitable to debate. So when we launched the book I always had an agreement with the press that we would never detach the illustrations from the context of the book. They would never be posted, they would never be removed from the book itself. And the book should not be a symbolic issue. So it’s highly ironic that by this act of censorship on the part of Yale, they have turned my book into another chapter of this fruitless debate — and have in fact made it a symbolic issue.

Read the rest of Klausen’s interview with Index on Censorship here.

UPDATE: In what she calls "a startling act of cognitive dissonance," FIRE Board of Advisors member Wendy Kaminer points out in her blog at The Atlantic that Index on Censorship declined to display the Mohammed cartoons alongside its interview with Klausen. You can read more of Wendy’s take on this internally inconsistent and self-contradictory editorial decision here.

Schools: Yale University Cases: Yale University: Censorship of Mohammed Cartoons at Yale University Press