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Zakaria ‘regretted’ his Yale role in suppressing Muhammad cartoons

Fareed Zakaria ’86 has “always deeply regretted” his public defense of Yale’s decision to excise cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad from a book about the inflammatory Danish caricatures, he says.

The CNN host, author, and pundit wrote of his regret last month in his Washington Post column. Arguing that Sony Pictures’ decision (later reversed) not to release the movie The Interview “sends the wrong message to terrorists,” Zakaria revisited the 2009 controversy that erupted when the Yale University Press published The Cartoons That Shook the World without the cartoons.

At the time, the university argued that because the cartoons—originally published by a Danish newspaper—were the subject of deadly protests in some Muslim countries, republishing them posed an unacceptable risk of renewed violence. When the Yale Alumni Magazine asked several people for their opinions, Zakaria wrote a statement echoing the university’s view.

“Confronted with a clear threat of violence and loss of life,” Yale “correctly decided that it would be better to weather a little controversy now, as opposed to after an international incident that likely would have resulted in serious injury or death,” he wrote.

Five years later, in his December 18, 2014, Post column, Zakaria declared that statement a mistake.

“As a trustee of the university, I was asked to defend the decision (one I would not have made),” he wrote. “Swayed by my concerns for an institution I love deeply and a group of administrators I respect greatly, I made a statement supporting the university’s actions that I have always deeply regretted. The right response then and now must be to affirm freedom of expression.”

In this week’s Post column, responding to the January 7 massacre at a Paris magazine that published anti-Muhammad cartoons, Zakaria again affirms free expression in the face of violence.

His free-speech mea culpa, however, raises questions about Zakaria’s role in the Yale Press controversy.

In 2014, he said he had been “asked to defend” a decision that he “would not have made,” and that he agreed to do so out of loyalty to Yale. But his 2009 statement begins: “I advised Yale Press not to republish the Danish cartoons in an upcoming book”—seeming to suggest a more active role than that of a loyal alumnus and trustee reluctantly defending a decision made by others.

Zakaria did not respond to messages seeking clarification.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Fareed Zakaria, Muhammad cartoons

1 comment

  • Robert C. Michaelson
    Robert C. Michaelson, 10:29pm January 15 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    This serial plagiarist should not be trusted on anything.

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