Yale's Preemptive Surrender


This is pathetic. From The New York Times:

So Yale University and Yale University Press (YUP) consulted two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism, and the recommendation was unanimous: The book, "The Cartoons That Shook the World," should not include the 12 Danish drawings that originally appeared in September 2005. What's more, they suggested that the Yale press also refrain from publishing any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children's book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante's "Inferno" that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí.

YUP director John Donatich admitted that he was caving to threats of violence that he presumes will follow:

He noted that he had been involved in publishing other controversial books — like "The King Never Smiles" by Paul M. Handley, a recent unauthorized biography of Thailand's current monarch — and "I've never blinked." But, he said, "when it came between that and blood on my hands, there was no question."

Reza Aslan, a religion scholar and the author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam," is a fan of the book but decided to withdraw his supportive blurb that was to appear in the book after Yale University Press dropped the pictures. The book is "a definitive account of the entire controversy," he said, "but to not include the actual cartoons is to me, frankly, idiotic."

Good for Aslan. What makes this really enraging is that Yale is one of the best academic presses out there, having published, for instance, the Annals of Communism Series, a diverse group of books that mined the (briefly opened) archives of the Soviet Union and effectively rewrote the history of the Spanish Civil War and the myth of a Leninist revolution betrayed by Stalinism. Unlike many academic publishers, there is no ideological conformity at YUP and former editorial director Jonathan Brent went out of his way, it would seem, to get a range of interesting perspectives outside of the typical race-class-gender triumvirate.

I interviewed Jyllands-Posten culture editor and Mohammad cartoon publisher Flemming Rose back in 2007.