No middle ground

Look for the real causes

by Jytte Klausen

John Donatich, director of the Yale University Press, has spoken repeatedly about the possibility of blood on his hands (and mine, I have to assume) if we reproduced the cartoons. The Yale Press statement also says: “Republication of the cartoons—not just the original printing of them in Denmark—has repeatedly resulted in violence around the world. More than two hundred lives have been lost, and hundreds more have been injured.”

However, my book clearly shows that violence broke out in conflicts with little connection to the original protests in Denmark or the international diplomatic protests. Three-fourths of the deaths occurred in northern Nigeria where the imposition of shariah-law has produced a virtual civil war. A press release from Al Qaeda described its 2008 bombing of the Danish embassy in Islamabad as a retribution for the cartoons, but it was in fact part of a string of attacks on foreign diplomatic missions, all which were followed up by press releases citing various sins of the infidels. The deaths resulted from violence in long-running conflicts where the cartoons became a new symbol in an old terrorist campaign or a rallying point in a protracted standoff between extremists and local governments.  


Jytte Klausen is a professor of comparative politics at Brandeis University and author ofThe Cartoons That Shook the World, released in late September.