See No Evil

Klausen_84x84 An interview with Jytte Klausen in Eurozine, originally in the Index on Censorship:

Jytte Klausen's book The Cartoons That Shook the World (published by Yale University Press) is the first scholarly examination of the notorious controversy that erupted in 2006. Klausen is a respected scholar: she won the Carnegie Scholars Award for her research on Muslims in Europe and is professor of comparative politics at Brandeis University in the US. Three years ago, she set out to unravel the genesis of the debacle and to analyse the cartoons and their impact. Last summer, several months before publication, Yale University Press unexpectedly took the decision not to publish the cartoons in her book. After reading Klausen's manuscript in the spring, the director of the press, John Donatich, was ambivalent about republishing the cartoons: on grounds of taste, offence and the possibility that it might reignite the conflict. He also noted that the cartoons were available for readers to see online. He consulted Yale University who assembled an advisory panel of diplomats, academics and US and UK counter-terrorism officials who advised that there was a strong chance of violence breaking out if the cartoons were published. Klausen was told that she could only read the dossier that Yale had compiled of the panel's opinions if she signed a gagging order. Not only were the cartoons removed from the book, but historic illustrations of Mohammed that Klausen had wanted to include to illustrate her thesis were also omitted. When the story leaked to the American press last summer, Yale was widely criticised for undermining academic freedom. Christopher Hitchens described it as “the latest and perhaps the worst episode in the steady surrender to religious extremism”. In a statement, Yale University Press defended its decision with reference to the expert panel's advice “that there existed a substantial likelihood of violence that might take the lives of innocent victims”. John Donatich took full responsibility for the final decision, but there have been concerns at the university's intervention in the press's independence. (Index on Censorship)

Index: Was there any discussion about the cartoons at the time of signing the contract for the book three years ago? Or any anticipation that there might be a difficulty about publishing them?

Jytte Klausen: I warned the press and the commissioning editor Jonathan Brent that I intended to include the cartoons. He was extremely supportive of that and wanted the page [in the book]. We had some discussions about how it was going to be done and I insisted that it had to be put in as part of a set of documentation.

My idea was not to engage the provocation of: “Do I now dare to print these bad pictures or not?” That would never be my purpose. My purpose was to get the whole page from the newspaper as it was reprinted that day. There have been many misunderstandings and often the online versions of the cartoons have incorrect translations of the captions. In the book, and it was written with this purpose, I ask the reader to put on different glasses and look at the images and analyse them from the vantage point of the different arguments that were made against and for the cartoons at the time. What would a Danish reader see? What did the cartoonist intend to show? Why would a secular Muslim say they were Islamaphobic? Why would a religious Muslim say they were blasphemous?