Here's the kicker: the publishers decided not to include the cartoons in the book. They want to publish a book about some cartoons without including the very cartoons that the book is about. It looks like it wasn't YUP that's at fault though; apparently Yale University stepped in after the Press had thoroughly vetted the book, and decided not to include any depictions of Muhammad. Roger Kimball has several enlightening posts on this here, here, here, and here.
I wrote about the cartoons on my other blog a while ago, and made four points; please forgive me for quoting myself:
1. It's incredibly ungracious to treat something profanely when many people consider it sacred. It's morally reprehensible to do something for the sole purpose of offending others, especially when it comes to something as close to people's personal sense of identity as their religious beliefs.
2. Nevertheless, they had the right to publish these cartoons. Free speech, freedom of the press, etc. entails the right to offend. If you only have free speech until someone is offended by what you say, you don't really have free speech.
3. To respond to a handful of cartoons by threatening and committing violence is absurdly disproportionate. In fact, the cartoons themselves were pretty tame. Most had nothing offensive about them at all, except that they depicted Muhammad. Some of the cartoons even mocked the newspaper for commissioning the cartoons, or even the cartoonists themselves.
4. The prohibition against making images of Muhammad is not a universally-held doctrine in Islam. Many museums throughout the world, including the Muslim world, have paintings of Muhammad, which have been made by both Muslims and non-Muslims throughout Islamic history. Drawings and paintings and even cartoons of Muhammad have been made many times before without similar responses. As such, the rioting showed all the signs of being a contrived outrage.
Let me make a fifth point: acquiescing to bad behavior only encourages more of it. After all, it shows that it works.
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