New York City, September 11, 2009—PEN American Center has sent a letter to the President of Yale University and the Board of the Yale Corporation urging the University to review a decision to remove all images of the Prophet Muhammed from Jytte Klausen’s book The Cartoons That Shook the World, which is forthcoming from Yale University Press. PEN called the decision “out of character with Yale, its reputation, and its leadership position.”

The book examines the publication of the controversial cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on September 30, 2005, and the subsequent protests and violence in several countries. It was to include reproductions of the cartoons and other historical depictions of the Prophet including a Doré illustration of Muhammed for Dante’s Inferno. Last month, however, Yale University Press announced it would not print the images, citing concerns that they could spark a violent response.

PEN’s letter notes that the organization’s international membership debated the issues posed by the cartoon’s original publication at great length, but that those discussions inevitably “reach[ed] one clear, consensus position: the introduction of violence or threats of violence into debates over art and ideas is to be rejected and condemned.” The letter concludes that PEN is troubled “both by the University’s…assessment that publishing the images could provoke a violent response—which we believe discredits both Professor Klausen’s work and its readership—and by the decision to pull the images based on speculative threats.”

“We think Yale University Press’s decision runs contrary to the university’s long tradition of supporting thoughtful exploration of timely issues and topics,” said Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs of PEN American Center. “Such exploration is essential to promoting mutual respect and understanding, and we believe Professor Klausen’s book, published with the images referred to in the text, would be received in that spirit. We strongly urge Yale University Press to reconsider its decision.”

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105