Profiles in Cowardice

Profiles in Cowardice

Profiles in Cowardice

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Aug. 13 2009 3:24 PM

Profiles in Cowardice

The New York Times reports that Yale University Press is publishing a book on the Danish Muhammad cartoons and their violent aftermath. After consulting with various experts in Islam and counterterrorism the press decided not to include the cartoons in the book, nor any other depictions of Muhammad-even benign historical ones-out of fear of the bloodshed that could result. This Yale decision-and the original decision of newspapers in this country not to publish the cartoons-is the way America, and the West, undermines what it stands for by supinely giving up its core value of freedom of expression. The author of the book, Jytte Klausen, a Dane who now teaches politics at Brandeis, only went along with this censorship because she was given a choice: Agree to the removal of the cartoons, or forgo publication. That's a choice whose outcome is caving in to religious fanatics. I hope her books points out the richness of the irony that the world-wide riots, vandalism, and ultimately death of 200 people was because of offense taken to a dozen cartoons in an obscure Danish newspaper that depicted Islam as, uh, violent. Lausen is quoted as saying she believes the cartoon riots were not spontaneous, but orchestrated by fanatics seeking power in the Muslim world. But one result is that the Western world hands fanatics the power to decide what we publish and what we read.

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.