The American publisher Yale University Press has decided, after advice from experts, to remove illustrations of the prophet Mohammed from a book about the Mohammed crisis.
This applies both to a reprint of the page in the Jyllands Posten newspaper showing the cartoons as well as a range of examples of illustrations of the prophet made by, among others, Gustave Doré and Auguste Rodin. The book was written by Danish-born Jytte Klausen, who during the affair acted with the view that the crisis, despite death threats and demands of censorship, was about mocking a cowed minority. It is the irony of fate that professor Klausen is now herself subjected to censorship because a bunch of consultants thinks that it could incite violence if drawings are printed in her book. Unlike in Denmark, where painters and writers remained cautiously silent when colleagues were subjected to threats and censorship, the American Association of University Professors has protested on behalf of their members because we are here talking about an assault on academic freedom. As the professors sarcastically formulate it, the publishers have indirectly, with their in-advance censorship, said no to negotiations with terrorists but have instead chosen to accede to the terrorists’ demands up front. The capitulation, in other words, is total.
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Two things stand out clearly in this insane debate, which started with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie twenty years ago. Firstly, the offense-fundamentalists’ lack of ability to distinguish between offender and victim. In the publishers’ defense of censorship, and in hundreds of articles and comments, it is stated that the drawings incited violence. Meaning that those who print the drawings hold responsibility. The CEO of the publisher even stated that if anyone should be harmed as a consequence of the reprint, he would have blood on his hands. But the fact is such that if anybody reacts with violence and threats in response to a legal act, then it is the perpetrator, and he alone, who bears the responsibility, and it is the responsibility of the state and the public to defend the right of the individual to do and say as it like as long as this does not violate the law. This also includes the right to violate religious feelings. The absurdity in the logic of the publisher CEO’s logic can be illustrated with an example: if a terrorist says that he will kill anyone who predicts rain next week and some citizens who dare to repeat the weather forecast get killed thereafter, then the meteorologist has blood on his hands, and the citizens themselves bear responsibility for losing their lives. The madness is obvious, but apparently not when it comes to Islam.
It is disturbing that the publishers and their like-minded colleagues have adopted this ‘culture-of-threats’ point of view. Large parts of the Western world have internalized the fatwa against Rushdie while proposing toasts in favor of freedom of speech. The message to the practitioners of the ‘culture-of-threats’ is clear: if you threaten us we will do as you say, and we acknowledge that, if we do not, the violence is our responsibility. Could anyone think of a more obvious way to incite violence? The publishers think that by censoring they are showing consideration, but in reality they violate and discriminate against Muslims. Because their censorship is built on the assumption that Muslims are a mob of disruptive assailants and fanatics which should not be treated as other citizens. What kind of humanity is that? It is time to stop this totally unacceptable mocking of Muslims.