Mohammed Cartoon Controversy: FIRE Response to Intimidation and Newspaper Disputes
As a result of worldwide controversy regarding caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, first published in a Danish newspaper, free speech was being openly disregarded on American college campuses. In the weeks following the printing of the cartoon, students, professors, and student publications not only reprinted the controversial cartoons but even created their own satirical cartoons depicting Mohammed. Chilling of speech in relation to the cartoon was found at Century College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and New York University, amongst others.
- "Editor Fired for Printing the Mohammed Cartoons Speaks Out," May 10, 2006: One of the highlights of FIRE’s year is its Summer Internship Program, and 2006 will be no exception. This year, FIRE received a record number of applications and will be pleased to host 14 extraordinary interns, 11 undergraduates and three law students. Notably, one of the interns will be Acton H. Gorton, a U.S. Army veteran and senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Gorton made headlines earlier this year when he was terminated as the editor of his university’s daily newspaper for publishing some of the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Today, he tells his story exclusively on FIRE’s blog, The Torch.
- "‘USA Today’ on FIRE and the Mohammed Cartoons," April 19, 2006: USA Today this morning features a piece by Nat Hentoff, noted columnist and member of FIRE’s Board of Advisors, discussing the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy on America’s campuses. In the article, “‘Free speech’ cries ring hollow on college campuses and beyond,” Hentoff focuses on shameful instances of censorship at Minnesota’s Century College and at New York University—both cases in which FIRE was involved. The column is particularly timely in light of FIRE’s letter to NYU yesterday asking President John Sexton to publicly repudiate the university’s censorship of a discussion about the cartoons and to live up to the university’s promises of freedom of expression.
- "NYU Shamefully Censors Cartoon Panel Discussion," March 30, 2006: Yesterday, FIRE announced that New York University (NYU) was planning to squelch a panel discussion on the Danish cartoons of Mohammed by requiring that the panel’s organizers choose either to exclude over 150 registered off-campus guests or to agree not to show the Danish cartoons. While the event was held last night with what students called their largest crowd ever, NYU did not allow the cartoons to be shown or allow all of the off-campus guests to attend. Instead, students were forced to display easels with blank panels. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, who took part in the discussion, noted, “Those blank easels were a testament to campus repression and a climate of fear.” More coverage is available on FIRE’s blog, The Torch.
- "NYU Surrenders to the Heckler’s Veto in Mohammed Cartoon Dispute," March 29, 2006: In violation of its own policies, New York University (NYU) is refusing to allow a student group to show the Danish cartoons of Mohammed at a public event tonight. Even though the purpose of the event is to show and discuss the cartoons, an administrator has suddenly ordered the students either not to display them or to exclude 150 off-campus guests from attending. FIRE is urging NYU’s president to reverse course and stand up for freedom of speech.
- "New York University Student Guide, Chapter 9," March 29, 2006
- "E-mail from NYU Director of Student Activities Robert Butler to Student Kara Zavarella, March 28, 2006," March 28, 2006
- "E-mail from NYU Director of Student Activities Robert Butler to NYU Students, March 27, 2006," March 27, 2006
- "Minnesota Prof Censored for Posting Mohammed Cartoons," March 9, 2006: The uproar over cartoons of the prophet Mohammed may be fading in some places, but not at Century College in Minnesota. After repeatedly encountering censorship of her display of the cartoons on a hallway bulletin board, Professor Karen Murdock finally posted them behind a curtain so that passers-by would not be offended. Yet even after assuring Murdock and FIRE that free speech is valued at Century, administrators allowed censors to tear down the hidden cartoons and insisted that she not put them back up.
- "Posted Request to Remove Curtained Cartoons at Century College, March 1, 2006," March 1, 2006
- "Professor Karen Murdock’s Bulletin Board Postings (Cartoons Obscured by Curtain)," February 28, 2006: These photographs show the warning signs and curtain that Professor Karen Murdock installed on or next to hallway bulletin boards in order to prevent passers-by from unintentionally viewing the controversial cartoons depicting Mohammed.
- "Mohammed Cartoon Controversy Sweeps the Academy," February 22, 2006: The global controversy over cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed has now struck American college campuses. In response, FIRE is reminding colleges and universities that free speech needs protection now—in the face of ongoing controversy—more than ever.
- "FIRE Statement on Cartoons Depicting Mohammed," February 22, 2006: FIRE offers its help to universities who need assistance explaining to critics why even controversial expression must be tolerated. We are also aware of universities where the response may not have been as judicious and we offer our help to students and faculty members who face censorship in its many forms. As we have always done, we are prepared to defend, with every resource at our disposal, the rights of students and faculty whose free speech has been denied.
- "Cartoons Depicting the Prophet Mohammed," February 22, 2006: FIRE reprints here the images at the center of the controversy.
- "Letter from Century College Vice President of Academic Affairs John O'Brien to FIRE, February 17, 2006," February 17, 2006
- "Letter from Century College Vice President of Academic Affairs John O'Brien to Karen Murdock, February 16, 2006," February 17, 2006
- "Prophet cartoon on door prompts action," Chicago Maroon, February 17, 2006
- "FIRE Letter to Century College President Lawrence Litecky, February 16, 2006," February 16, 2006
- "STAFF EDITORIAL: Mind the Gap," The Communicator (Purdue Univ.), February 15, 2006
- "Salient Publishes Danish Cartoons," The Harvard Crimson, February 14, 2006
- "School editors say they were suspended for running Islamic cartoons," Chicago Tribune, February 14, 2006
- "Sacred images, sacred rights," The Badger Herald (UW-Madison), February 13, 2006
- "Letter from Muslim students at Century College to Chief Academic Officer John O’Brien, February 13, 2006," February 13, 2006
- "More Than Cartoons," Northern Star (Northern Illinois Univ.), February 13, 2006
- "Mohammed cartoon backlash hits Century College," Star Tribune (Minneapolis–St. Paul), February 10, 2006:
- "E-mail from Century College President Lawrence Litecky to the Century College Community, February 10, 2006," February 10, 2006
- "Cartoon Controversy in Chapel Hill," abc11tv.com, February 10, 2006
- "Political Cartoon," Arizona Daily Wildcat, February 7, 2006
- "Is Nothing Sacred? Comedy Central Joins Many Universities in Caving to Threats of Violence for Depictions of Mohammed," by Erica Goldberg, April 23, 2010
- "Objectivists host panel on Danish cartoons,"
by Laura Bishop, Chicago Maroon, November 30, 2006
- "When Speech Becomes a Crime,"
by Cinnamon Stillwell, San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 2006
- "U.S. media response to cartoons skewered,"
by Margaret Ramirez and Gerry Doyle, Chicago Tribune, April 26, 2006
- "'Free speech' cries ring hollow on college campuses and beyond,"
by Nat Hentoff, USA Today, April 19, 2006
- "Speech codes choke off discourse, satire,"
by Jason Doré, The Daily Reveille (Louisiana State Univ.), April 6, 2006
- "The image of hypocrisy,"
by Harvey Silverglate, The Boston Phoenix, March 29, 2006
- "Images offensive to Muslims are debated,"
by Matthew Hay Brown, Baltimore Sun, March 14, 2006
- "College Urged to Stop Censoring Prof's Display of Muslim Cartoons,"
by Jim Brown, Agape Press, March 13, 2006
- "Professor Fears Retribution Over Mohammed Cartoons,"
by Nathan Burchfiel, Cybercast News Service, March 10, 2006
- "Professor censored over Muhammad cartoons,"
World Net Daily, March 10, 2006
- "Specifics on Max P. cartoon incident still cloudy,"
by Hassan S. Ali, Chicago Maroon, February 24, 2006