The Cartoons That Shook the World

In This Review

The Cartoons That Shook the World
By Jytte Klausen
Yale University Press, 2009
240 pp. $35.00
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On September 30, 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, having invited 42 Danish cartoonists to draw the Prophet Muhammad "as they see him," published the 12 cartoons submitted. Danish Muslims (who compose four percent of Denmark's population) protested, Muslim governments intervened diplomatically, Muslims boycotted Danish products, the cartoonists received death threats, and mobs sacked Danish embassies around the Middle East. Seeing this, other voices championed free speech and evoked the threat of an Islamicized Europe. Klausen, a Danish political scientist at Brandeis University, appraises with empathy and irony the characters and issues involved -- Danish officials whose "tin ears" prevented them from nipping the crisis in the bud, an Egyptian government that entered the fray for domestic reasons (to score points against the Muslim Brotherhood and fend off pro-democratic pressures), the diverse and changing history of European blasphemy laws, the complex reality of Muslim depictions of Muhammad, and even cameo appearances by such diverse figures as the Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Pope Benedict XVI, and Salman Rushdie. Readers looking for the cartoons themselves will not find them here: Yale University Press, after consulting experts, obliged the author not to include them.