The Volokh Conspiracy

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'Paris attacks prompt reexamination of 2009 Yale Press controversy'


So reports the Yale Daily News (Jed Finley & Larry Milstein):

After last week's terror attack against the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Yale students, faculty and experts have revisited Yale University Press' controversial 2009 decision to censor images of the Prophet Muhammad.

In 2009, Yale University Press faced criticism for its decision to redact images of the Prophet Muhammad—including a controversial 2005 Danish cartoon and other historical depictions of the figure—from Brandeis University Professor Jytte Klausen's book, "The Cartoons That Shook the World." The University defended the decision at the time, arguing that it had consulted with two dozen authorities that unanimously advised against the publication of the images. However, in light of last week's attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Yale faculty, students and experts have raised new criticism of Yale University Press's 2009 decision and urged the University to modify its stance for the future.

"If the major educational institutions of the Western world cannot summon the courage to defend freedom of speech, who is going to do that?" said Executive Director of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Jonathan Brent, who was the YUP's commissioning editor of the book at the time. "[Yale] was not behaving as a beacon of democratic culture or in a self-aware capacity as a protector of liberal values it teaches—it was acting rather as a corporation protecting its interests abroad and protecting its interests in the Arab world." …

[F]ormer Yale Corporation member Fareed Zakaria '86 wrote in a Washington Post column last month that he "deeply regretted" writing a statement in favor of the University's decision to redact the images. He said he was swayed by concerns for the institution at the time, but said the correct decision—then and now—would be to affirm freedom of expression.

Unfortunately, "it appears unlikely that recent events will lead to substantive change from the administration." If you're interested, have a look at the whole article.