AAUP Blasts Move by Yale University Press

August 14, 2009

The American Association of University Professors issued a statement Thursday sharply criticizing a decision by the Yale University Press, first reported by The New York Times, to exclude from a book about the controversy over cartoon images of Muhammad the images themselves. The AAUP statement said that Yale's position effectively was: "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands." The AAUP said that the issues involved are: "1) an author’s academic freedom; 2) the reputation of the press and the university; 3) the impact of these twin decisions on other university presses and publication venues; 4) the potential to encourage broader censorship of speech by faculty members or other authors."

Yale released a statement defending its actions. "As an institution deeply committed to free expression, we were inclined to publish the cartoons and other images as proposed," said the statement. "The original publication of the cartoons, however, was an occasion for violent incidents worldwide that resulted in over 200 deaths. Republication of them has repeatedly resulted in violent incidents, including as recently as 2008, some three years after their original publication and long after the images had been available on the Internet. These facts led us to consult extensively with experts in the intelligence, national security, law enforcement, and diplomatic fields, as well as leading scholars in Islamic studies and Middle East studies. All confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence, and nearly all advised that publishing other illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad in the context of this book about the Danish cartoon controversy raised similar risk. We recognize that inclusion of the cartoons would complement the book¹s text with a convenient visual reference for the reader, who otherwise would have to consult the Internet to view the images."

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