Muhammad: The 'Banned' Images

For many decades now, Western intellectuals and politicians have cowed to threats of violence from Islamic radicals. Today we must all take a stand for freedom of speech and reasoned discourse.

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Gary Hull's new book Muhammad: The “Banned” Images. Learn more about the book at

In August 2009, a New York Times headline announced: “Yale Press Bans Images of Muhammad In New Book.” The book referred to in this headline, The Cartoons that Shook the World by Brandeis professor Jytte Klausen, discusses the events around the cartoons of Muhammad that were published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005. After their publication, sundry Muslim hordes “expressed” their displeasure by rioting, looting, firebombing.

Yale University Press, claiming it did not want to stoke more violence abroad, removed the cartoons, along with other images of Muhammad, that are the very subject of Klausen’s book. Its press renounced the very principles it depends on for its survival the First Amendment and reasoned discourse to placate the riotous behavior of nihilists.

The West has a decades-long track record of appeasing and emboldening terrorists. It started in the 1950s when the U.S. allowed Iran to confiscate Western oil.

In 1979, President Carter redoubled the appeasement by capitulating when the Islamic regime in Iran kidnapped U.S. diplomats and called for jihad against the U.S. The West submitted again in 1989 when Khomeini issued a fatwa that declared “blasphemous” Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

Islamists terrorized many Western bookstores into not carrying the book. President Bush, Sr. did nothing. And here are the consequences.

In the spring 1989, some Collets and Dillons bookstores that carried the novel were bombed. Bombs were discovered at numerous other bookstores. Two bookstores in Berkeley, California were firebombed. In July 1991, the Japanese translator of the novel was stabbed to death at his university in Tokyo. In 1993, the novel’s publisher in Norway, William Nygaard, was shot. In July that year, 37 Alevi intellectuals were burned to death in a hotel that was hosting a conference being attended by another translator of Rushdie’s novel.

In November 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered while riding his bicycle to work. He was considered a blasphemer because his movie Submission portrayed Muslim women being brutalized by Islamists.

Inaction by Western leaders encouraged the Islamists’ assault on free speech and reasoned discourse. Public endorsement gave them a moral sanction.

Shortly after the publication of the Danish cartoons in 2005, a spokesman for the State Department said that “Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”  While in Qatar, Bill Clinton described the cartoons as “these totally outrageous cartoons against Islam.”  British Foreign secretary Jack Straw outdid Neville Chamberlain: “I believe that the republication of these cartoons has been unnecessary. It has been insensitive. It has been disrespectful and it has been wrong.”

Rather than being denounced for acting like barbarians, the marauders were told that they have a moral right to feel aggrieved. And aggrieved they acted. The Danish journalists and cartoonists were terrorized. Numerous embassies in Syria were attacked and set on fire. There were violent demonstrations in Denmark. Churches were torched, and hundreds around the world were killed in riots.

The destruction of life and property, the violence to reasoned discourse and civilized behavior are the result of a long chain of events, and could have been avoided if both the Iranian hostage-taking and the Khomeini fatwa had been treated by the West as the declarations of war that in fact they were.

Iran, the world’s greatest state-sponsor of terrorism, should have been dealt with accordingly. As should have been the September 11 attacks, in which almost 3,000 Americans were murdered.

Instead, the West has engaged in eight years of mealy-mouthed policy statements (with the most outrageous being Bush’s statement that Islam is “a religion of peace”), tiptoeing around theocrats, pleading with the U.N., misdirected and anemic military responses (with the biggest joke being a protracted “war” in Afghanistan). Meanwhile, the orchestrators of world-wide terrorism in Iran remain untouched, growing more belligerent and powerful.

Tragically, the Obama presidency is even more appeasing than were previous administrations. The President saw fit to comment on an insignificant conflict between a policeman and a university professor at Harvard, but remained silent when Yale mauled the First Amendment.

A president who understands his responsibilities to the Constitution should use his moral authority to encourage Yale to publish the book in its entirety. Rather than using his power to berate American businessmen, he should denounce the pillagers of our freedoms.

He should state publicly that Yale its employees, property, faculty, and students will be protected fully by every security agency under his authority. And that if a foreign leader so much as mentions the words “fatwa” and “Yale” in the same sentence, that country will have three days to surrender unconditionally or face, not the umpteenth U.N. resolution, but the righteous and unrestrained use of America’s armed forces.

George Washington warned that “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Ours is becoming a self-inflicted dumbness and silence not “taken away,” but rather given away by those who are ashamed of everything that free speech stands for.

For more information, see Muhammad: The “Banned” Images at and

Dr. Gary Hull is director of the Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace at Duke University and teaches one of Duke's most popular honors programs. He is editor of The Abolition of Antitrust and co-editor of The Ayn Rand Reader. His articles and op-eds have appeared in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, on, and in Barron's. He frequently lectures to major corporations, business groups, and universities.

13 comments from readers  

To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.
While I agree with the thrust of this commentary, the author's credibility is destroyed by an obvious contradiction. Saying foreign leaders mentioning 'Fatwa and Yale' in the same sentence should be met with a declaration of all out war is all too similar to what the Islamists are doing.
Dr. Hull: Clearly you are a man after my own heart. Excellent and to the point column. Every evil that is pertinent to humanity prevails in Islam. They, the religious, are the most ruthless, conscienceless, monsters on the face of the Earth today. And our "leaders" are kissing their butts, apologetically. Is our world upside down or what? Europe is slowly dying, a curious word to use because of the rise of Islamic religion there. Soon America will be alone, and Islam will be able to turn its full attention to her. Has anyone yet realized that a barefoot, barbaric caveman in the mountains of Afghanistan, is running the show and winning hands down? I am old and glad of it, I won't be around for the denouement.
(profile not found)
0 points
Thanks for awakening us to the danger of Islamc jihadists. I loathe everything they stand for. Free speech does not give you or me the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre. In like manner, it should not give them the right to call for the murder of freedom loving people while they cower under the protection of the same Constitution they hate. It's time that we started using our prisons, gallows, and deportation procedures in dealing with them. A public hanging is too good for Major Nidal Hasan. Every freedom loving American should get one whack at him with a ball bat as an example to the jihadist hate mongers of what they can expect by following their leaders.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing-Edmund Burke
Good article explaining what the situation is and where we ought to be, but does not even hint at how to get there, or even how to persuade elected officials to move in that direction. (Good luck in the current political climate!)

Also, I've met peaceful Muslims who do marvel at and appreciate American wealth. How would I convince them to stand up to Islamist terror and prevent them from deceiving themselves?
This is an article about how the author doesn't like Islam. It isn't, at all, about freedom of speech or human rights.

Yale University cannot "maul the First Amendment." The first amendment says only that Congress (the government) shall not abridge free speech. Universities, TV studios, news agencies, are not governments and may print, or not print, whatever they feel like. Nor should the President of the United States be expected to influence what a University press does or does not print.

The real message of this column is "Muslims are bad. They kill people when you make fun of them, so the Government should protect our right to keep making fun of them."
Every publisher, newspaper, television network and internet site that value their freedom should immediately print, publish and broadcast millions of copies of the offending image or images.
Well, I agree 90%. That is, 100% on the assessment of the tribal savagery of most of the Muslim world, and nearly all of it that is motivated and capable enough to make things happen, and 100% on the despicable nature of Western appeasers, who not only give too much respect to the idea of 'Muslim Lands,' but appear ready to offer the liberties of their own people (their own 'subjects' is probably more true to their attitude) to these same savages in our own ('Christian?') lands.

Also, this is one of the few articles I've seen where the author asserts that Western companies, who after all, and unlike the savages, did get the oil out of the ground, have some right to that oil. Bravo for him there. However, would Dubai be justified in attacking the USA because our government put the Kaibosh on a seaport management deal between private, or at least chartered parties? Obviously not, and Western businesses with interests and enterprises overseas should understand that they do not bring the US Military to the bargaining table as insurance against asset seizure. Some rights are measured, rather than absolute, and in any case, are not practically enforceable.

Finally, columnists like Gary Hull are not strategists, and the desire of some Randians for unrestrained military force against Iran (Hull isn't the first to advocate this) is just foolish. As with the lefties, it seems that there are a lot of Field Marshals in this group.
Excellent, thought-provoking...except for the reference to our efforts in Afghanistan as "a joke." Tell that to the families of the soldiers fighting and dying there.
Thanks for your focus on this crucial problem.Unfortunaty, I now feel compelled to read your book! Although grabbing a copy immediately is a very simple way to stand up and show support, which is what needs to happen, I know that reading it will only increase my outrage, anger and terror at what lies ahead for us if we do not act.
Gary H
0 points
I would like to respond to some of the points made in the "Letters to the Editor."

Re T. Crook: Your point is based on a moral equivalence between Islamofascism and America. The purpose of our military is to defend rights, including the right to free speech. Their weapons are used to enslave.

Re F. Toplin: The fundamental evil is, as you mentioned, that the West is appeasing these monsters.

Re D. Ostroske: I tried to "hint at how to get there" by naming what the Obama administration should do. None the less, an op-ed is, after all, by its nature very brief. The only way to convince "peaceful Muslims" is to tell them to denounce their ideological leaders, and to join the Enlightenment.

Re A. Dejesus: Odd that you interpret an article with a beginning, middle, and end on free speech as "not at all about freedom of speech." BTW, "maul" is a metaphor not a synonym for "censor." Yale's preemptive surrender was, though, motivated by Iran's international campaign for censorship, and the West's refusal to combat the censors.

Re R. Angelucci: Canceling a contract is not the same as seizing property. I agree that Western companies should be more careful about doing business with collectivist regimes. But a little "gunboat diplomacy" in the 40's and 50's would've gone a long way to stemming the barbarism we face today. It doesn't take a "strategist" to know the purpose and proper use of a free (or semi-free) country's military.

Re S. Parkhurst: The "joke" I meant is not the families or soldiers. It our political "leaders" who are conducting a "war" that hamstrings our military -- and that causes unnecessary deaths of U.S. soldiers.

P.S. I had to rate my own column to submit this letter.
This a tremendous colum. I agree with everything that he says except I think that Yale and its Press as private businesses can publish what it wants.
Excellent and courageous sir!

I too wrote on the subject here.

but I'm afraid my commentary is not fit for mixed company.


â??Where there are no men â?? be thou a man.â?
â?? Rabbi Hillel

â??Freedom is not negotiable.â?
â?? Andy Garcia

So hereâ??s my thoughts on the matter: **** you Yale University Press! You Ivy League @$$holes used to produce scholars, leaders, and heroes.

How are the mighty fallen!

And you Yale University Press Director John Donatich and your committee of â??experts,â? **** you you gutless cowards.

Now hereâ??s my challenge:

Fellow bloggers â?? plaster these pictures on your blogs. Pick your favorite and feature it prominently.

Shame the cowards, and defy those who would tell free-born Americans what they can and canâ??t say or print.

Show them we are worthy descendants of the brawling, lusty, vulgar men who conquered this continent and built a mighty nation!
To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.