Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yale Offends the West: The Muhammad Cartoons

The infamous Muhammad cartoons are back in the news again. This time the Danish caricatures that were implicated in the worldwide uproars in 2005 were edited out of a new book by the Yale University Press. Yale’s decision is a despicable display of spinelessness.

Yale offers two unsatisfactory explanations for its actions. First, the university cites fear of violence. This implies that if someone has something controversial to say, one only needs to threaten violence to silence the perspective. This is counter to the very basis of American free-speech. Since when do we silence a voice because one group throws a tantrum? If Muslims respond to the republication of the cartoons with violence they are in the wrong- not the publisher. Using potential violence (even if highly likely) as a reason for non-publication, gives those who wish to silence others an unimaginable power.

Second, Yale claims it does not want to offend. This is patently absurd. How many books have been published that offend someone, somewhere? Is it even possible to find a book that is agreeable to everyone? The publishing of any quality piece of writing is bound to offend someone. If literature, journalism, or research were uncontroversial they would seek to have an appeal. Yale’s decision to avoid publication soothes the egos of radical Islam by offending the sensibilities of the free West.

Yale’s dastardly editing speaks to a deeper seeded problem. The West is being brow-beaten into disregarding its own founding principles. Muslim leaders and countries attempt to argue that incidents, such as the publishing of the cartoons, should not be allowed. They perversely argue that blasphemy is discriminatory against Muslims and repressive of their freedoms. Rather than rightfully challenging this warped view, many in the West are conceding to these demands.

This poses a number of problems. First of all, it gives dangerous powers to groups to oppress minority views. Religions are entitled to believe what they will; they are not entitled to demand global orthodoxy. As The Economist points out, those attempting to limit ‘defamation’ of religion represent the antithesis to individual and human rights. These arguments are often couched in the language of freedom, but they serve the opposite aim. Instead, by tiptoeing around the supposed sensitivities of a group and preventing individuals to voice their dissent, we are creating a system that allows repression and forced conformity.

Second, by acceding to this perspective Yale is helping the reactionary forces of the Muslim world demolish years of Western progress. Yale is implicitly replacing the individualism that has defined Western culture with a foreign collectivism. This is a small piece in a dire threat to Western civilization. Western society is built on the individual. If we cannot support the individual in some of the more innocuous facets of life, it is only a matter of time before the assault on our core beliefs begins.

While some may dismiss this event as insignificant, it is anything but. It is a sign of the weakening spirit of the West. Yale’s cowardice is inexcusable. Their actions have granted the enemies of the Western society an easy win.

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