Those pesky Danish cartoons

The Globe and Mail

They are the cartoons that won't go away. Sorry. What I meant to say is that they are the cartoons that do go away every time some pusillanimous editor decides that printing them would be too risky to staff and limb. Sorry. What I meant to say is the official version: that printing them would be offensive to some people.

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I can't think of any other reasoning behind the decision of Yale University Press to publish a book about the dozen Danish cartoons of Muhammed that rocked the Muslim world, and consequently the rest of it as well, without actually reproducing the purportedly offending images.

So, if and when you come across a copy of The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Jytte Klausen, a Danish native and professor at Brandeis University in Boston, you will find none of the cartoons and so will not be able to make any sort of determination as to whether you, or anyone for that matter, find them offensive.

And neither will you find any other representations of the prophet, a decision that was, according to Yale UP director John Donatich, taken with the unanimous recommendation of a batch of authorities, including, apparently, counter-terrorism "experts."

I find the decision not only cowardly, but stupid. if your intention is to enage the mainstream of the Islamic world, never mind its wilder shores, surely it makes sense to know what we're talking about, to see what we're talking about.

It's true that the cartoons, even mere rumours of the cartoons, were enough to set parts of the world aflame. But that didn't deter several publications. When Canadian Ezra Levant reproduced the cartoons, he was immediately dragged before various human rights tribunals by kangaroo complaints. But when Harper's magazine did the same, in a terrific analysis by cartoonist Art Spiegelman, no such kangaroo trials followed. And as far as I know, no one at Harper's was attacked.

Klausen apparently battled the decision every step of the way, only to concede reluctantly. If I were her, I would withdraw my book from Yale and look for a braver publisher.

mlevin@globeandmail.ca

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