Islamist-Friendly Self-Censorship in the United States Marches On
by Aaron Eitan Meyer • Aug 14, 2009 at 1:57 pm
Islamist attempts to suppress the free discussion of radical Islam take many different forms, but the most difficult effect of these attempts to document may well be self-censorship. Indeed, Islamist lawfare may well be likened to an iceberg, with self-censorship representing the immense mass lurking beneath opaque waves, while its chilling effect extends farther than the eye can see.
On August 12th, the New York Times reported that Yale University Press' upcoming book on the Danish Muhammad cartoons, entitledCartoons That Shook the World, would not only fail to include the cartoons themselves, but would also be entirely devoid of any images depicting Muhammad. The Times article further reported that Yale had consulted "two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism" and that these unnamed individuals unanimously stated that the book should contain no images of Muhammad. The rationale for this absurd recommendation was, according to special adviser to the secretary general of the United Nations Ibrahim Gambari quoted in the Times article, "You can count on violence if any illustration of the prophet is published."
This is eerily reminiscent of how Random House attracted considerable attention this past year when it pulled the novel The Jewel of Medinaafter it received hysterical predictions of outrage and violence; Beaufort Books eventually published the novel, a historical fiction work centering on Muhammad's young wife Aisha. Nor are publishing companies the only ones to engage in this type of behavior: television channel Comedy Central censored a "South Park" episode in 2006 that ironically enough was about censorship, while approximately 25 newspapers refused to run two 2007 "Opus" comic strip Sunday installments that poked fun at radical Islam.
Still, the most alarming aspect of self-censorship is that its chilling effect goes well beyond public perception. There is simply no way to determine how many books have not been published, or how many reports have been censored rather than face an Islamist reaction – whether that reaction is the specter of violence or threats of legal action.
The Jewel of Medina incident was itself but another in a long line of self-censoring publishers. In December of 2006, publisher Palgrave McMillan reneged on its plans to publish a new, progressive, translation of the Quran entitled QURAN: A Reformist Translation, after receiving an anonymous review from "a very well-established professor," to which the book's editor Edip Yuksel responded that shelving the book on this basis "was akin to a medieval publishing house turning down Martin Luther's 95 Theses after consulting "a very well-established" Catholic Bishop!" While Brainbow Press eventually published it, few are aware of its existence, much less of the controversy that surrounded its non-publication by Palgrave McMillan.
Perhaps an even better example of the unknowable nature of self-censorship's reach comes from a completely unreported incident. "Faith Fighter" is an online video game featuring various religious figures in combat, including Muhammad. It attracted considerable attention and controversy, but was removed after the Organization of the Islamic Conference threatened the game's producers.
The American television channel G4 describes itself as "the one destination on television that feeds your addiction for the latest must-have tech gadgets, web culture and video games." It was not surprising, therefore, when it ran a 45-second "Indie Games" spot about "Faith Fighter" during a commercial break of the premier episode of the show "Web Soup" on June 7, 2009.
The brief spot summarized the game and its controversial nature, and the announcer, Kevin Pereira, mentioned the playable characters by name, noting that one could play as God, Jesus, Buddha, Ganesha and Budai. However, not only did the segment completely omit the fact that OIC pressure led to the game being taken down, but it glaringly ignored the fact that there are six playable characters, even as Muhammad's unidentified image appeared directly behind the presenter.
Self-censorship takes many forms, whether by refusing to include images in a book or television program, reneging on a contract to publish, or simply omitting crucial facts when reporting. And the first step towards effectively countering this hugely successful Islamist ploy is to bring these incidents into the light of public dialogue – precisely what proponents of radical Islam seek to prevent.
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