In 2009, Yale censored images of Mohammed in author Jytte Klausen’s book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, which discusses the controversy and violence that resulted from the publication of cartoons of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper in 2005.
The book, published by Yale University Press in fall 2009, was to contain images of the cartoons and other images of Mohammed. However, Yale intervened in the editorial process of its Press, submitted the cartoons out-of-context to a group of anonymous consultants. Relying on their opinions, Yale decided to remove the cartoons from the book — despite the fact that the author submitted the manuscript to Yale University Press with the explicit understanding that the cartoons would be included.
A coalition of free speech and academic freedom organizations including FIRE, the American Association of University Professors, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the First Amendment Lawyers Association wrote to Yale to protest the decision to censor the book. The coalition wrote:
We recognize that there are people who will threaten violence to suppress ideas that they hate. They range from religious zealots seeking to ban images they consider blasphemous to animal rights advocates who recently threatened the staff of the San Francisco Art Institute over an art installation that they claimed represented cruelty to animals. However, even in the face of actual threats, we believe that there are ways for institutions like Yale to preserve their commitment to academic freedom and intellectual integrity.
Giving in to the fear of violence only emboldens those who use threats to achieve their ends. This misguided action establishes a dangerous precedent that threatens academic and intellectual freedom around the world.
Ultimately, however, despite widespread criticism, Klausen’s book was published without any of the images.
Material by FIRE staff
- Mohammed Cartoon Controversy Cemented Yale’s Place on Our List of ’12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech,’ Azhar Majeed, Feb. 2, 2011
- Is Nothing Sacred? Comedy Central Joins Many Universities in Caving to Threats of Violence for Depictions of Mohammed, Erica Goldberg, Apr. 23, 2010
- Censored Images of Muhammad Finally Printed in New Book, Greg Lukianoff, Mar. 28, 2010
- In Interview With ‘Index on Censorship,’ Jytte Klausen Discusses Censorship of Mohammed Cartoons, Peter Bonilla, Dec. 22, 2009
- Duke Professor Finishes Yale’s Job, Prints Mohammed Images in New Book; FIRE Co-signs Statement of Principle, Adam Kissel, Nov. 9, 2009
- Yale Law Professor Misses the Point on Censorship of Political Cartoons, Azhar Majeed, Oct. 16, 2009
- Jytte Klausen, Author of ‘The Cartoons That Shook the World,’ Speaks at Yale and Confronts One of Her Censors, Azhar Majeed, Oct. 2, 2009
- FIRE Joins Open Letter to Yale Protesting Censorship of Mohammed Cartoons, Will Creeley, Sept. 17, 2009
- Yale University Press Responds on Mohammed Cartoon Controversy, Robert Shibley, Aug. 17, 2009
- Unexplained Mysteries in Mohammed Cartoon Controversy, Robert Shibley, Aug. 14, 2009
External media coverage
Academic and Free-Speech Groups Join Criticism of Yale U. Press Over Cartoons in Book, Jennifer Howard, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 16, 2009