Murder, Mayhem & Self-Censorship
A timeline of reactions to images and descriptions of Muhammad, offered as a supplement to Muhammad: The “Banned” Images
Introduction by Gary Hull
Muhammad: The "Banned" Images, which includes the Danish cartoons, 30 other images of Muhammad, and an essay calling for free speech unfettered by fear, appeared in print shortly after 2 men were arrested for planning to kill Flemming Rose, the editor who first published the cartoons. The book includes a brief survey of the reaction of Western intellectuals to Muslim violence and threats, from the Rushdie fatwa to Yale University Press's recent spineless self-censorship of Klausen's Cartoons that Shook the World. Muhammad: The “Banned” Images is available from Amazon.
The list below includes only news stories relating to images of Muhammad. If you know of other examples, tell us, citing a published news story, and we'll add the example to the list. This list could easily be expanded - and eventually may be - to include suppression of painting, sculpture, and art for the sake of multiculturalism and the religious sensibilities. See, for example, the Christian and Sikh examples cited in the "Statement of Principle" in Muhammad: The "Banned" Images, pp. 47-48.
1955 - April: Eight-foot sculpture on the Appellate Division of the First Department of the New York State Supreme Court (at Madison Square Park), in place since ca. 1900, is identified during renovation as Muhammad, and removed after the Egyptian, Indonesian and Pakistani ambassadors to the United Nations protest its presence. See Muhammad: The "Banned" Images p. 13.
1988 - September 26: Publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses
1988 - October (early): Satanic Verses banned in India
1989 - January 14: Satanic Verses publicly burned by Muslims in Bradford, England
1989 - February 14: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issues fatwa against Salman Rushdie
1989 - March 1: Cody's Books and a branch of Waldenbooks in Berkeley, CA, are firebombed after their managers assert that they will continue to sell Satanic Verse
1989 - April: Collets and Dillons in London are firebombed for stocking Satanic Verses; bombs also at High Wycombe, on London's King's Road, in the Liberty department store, and the York Penguin bookshop. Unexploded devices discovered at Nottingham, Guildford, and Peterborough
1989 - August 3: Unidentified 21-year-old Lebanese man dies priming a book bomb he intended to use to kill Rushdie
1991 - July 3: Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator of the Satanic Verses, is beaten and stabbed in Milan, after death threats by Muslims
1991 - July 12: Hitoshi Igarashi, professor of comparative culture and Japanese translator of the Satanic Verses, is stabbed to death at Tsukuba University, near Tokyo
1993 - July 2: Attack targeting Aziz Nesin, a translator of the Satanic Verse, kills 37 Alewi intellectuals at the Madimak Hotel in Sivas, Turkey
1993 - October 12: William Nygaard, publisher of the Satanic Verses in Norway, is shot and injured
1997 - Council on Inter-American Relations (CAIR) objects to the figure of Muhammad in Adolf Weinman’s frieze of lawmakers in the Supreme Court, Washington, D.C. Chief Justice Rehnquist replies that it is unlawful to remove or injure any architectural feature of the Supreme Court, but that the Supreme Court will change its tourist literature to be more sensitive to Muslim religious beliefs. (See Muhammad: The "Banned" Images, p. 13 and no. 28.)
2002 - June 24: Police foil plot by fundamentalist Muslims to bomb the Cathedral of Bologna, which contains a 15th-c. fresco depicting Muhammad in Hell. (See Muhammad: The "Banned" Images, p. 13 and no. 6.)
2004 - November 2: Theo van Gogh, filmmaker, is murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch Moroccan. Van Gogh’s film Submission was “intended to provoke discussion on the position of enslaved Muslim women… directed at the fanatics, the fundamentalists.” Bouyeri shot van Gogh twice, slit his throat, and used the knife to attach a note to van Gogh's chest that threatened the life of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (scriptwriter for Submission and former member of the Dutch Parliament). Hirsi Ali said, "I absolutely wish that Theo had not been killed. But I don't regret that I made it. In fact, I'm proud of that film. To feel otherwise would be to deny everything I stand for."
2005 - September 17: Danish newspaper Politiken publishes a story about Kaare Bluitgen, who cannot not find an illustrator for his book about the life of Muhammad because artists fear reprisals from Islamic extremists
2005 - September 30: Flemming Rose, culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, another Danish newspaper, publishes 12 cartoon renderings of Muhammad. (See Muhammad: The "Banned" Images pp. 6-7 and no. 30, with a translation of the text explaining why the cartoons were commissioned and published.)
2005 - December: Voltaire's Mahomet (written in 1741; see Muhammad: The "Banned" Images p. 12 and no. 22) is given a public reading in Saint-Genis-Pouilly, France, despite the fact that Muslims in the town state that the play "constitutes an insult to the entire Muslim community" and demand the reading be cancelled "in order to preserve peace." Mayor Hubert Bertrand responds that the French constitution guarantees free speech. On the night of the performance, minor disturbances erupt outside the theater, but Bertrand states afterward that he is proud his town refused to cave in to pressure: "For a long time we have not confirmed our convictions, so lots of people think they can contest them."
2006 - January 30: Former President Bill Clinton, speaking in Qatar of the Danish cartoons: “None of us are totally free of stereotypes about people of different races, different ethnic groups, and different religions ... there was this appalling example in northern Europe, in Denmark ... these totally outrageous cartoons against Islam.”
2006 - February 3: Kurtis Cooper, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, announces: “We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”
2006 - February 3: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, on the Danish cartoons: “I believe that the republication of these cartoons has been unnecessary. It has been insensitive. It has been disrespectful and it has been wrong.”
2006 - February 4: Demonstrations, protests, and firebombings in Syria, Denmark, Gaza Strip
2006 - February 5: Demonstrations, protests, and firebombings in Lebanon
2006 - February 6: Demonstrations, protests, and firebombings in Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia, Somalia, United Arab Emirates
2006 - February 7: New York Times states, “The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation's news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”
2006 - February 7: Demonstrations, protests, and firebombings in Afghanistan and Iran
2006 - February 8: Demonstrations in Afghanistan
2006 - February 10: Demonstration in Kenya
2006 - February 14: Demonstrations, arson, and vandalism in Pakistan
2006 - February 15-19: Riots in Pakistan
2006 - February 17: Two editors of the University of Illinois' student newspaper, the Daily Illini, are suspended (one is later fired) for reprinting the cartoons
2006 - February 17: Protests in Libya. A Pakistani cleric and a minister of an Indian province offer $1 million to anyone who will kill any of the Danish cartoonists
2006 - February 17: Italian Minister Roberto Calderoli appears on TV wearing a T-shirt depicting one of the Danish cartoons. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi demands Calderoli’s resignation. Calderoli states, "What happened in Libya has nothing to do with my T-shirt. The question is different. What's at stake is Western civilisation." He later quits under protest.
2006 - February 18-24: Demonstrations in Nigeria
2006 - February 19: Demonstrations in Pakistan
2006 - February 28: one or more of the cartoons have been printed in at least 143 newspapers in 56 countries.
2006 - March 1: Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others sign "Manifesto: Together facing the new totalitarianism," in response to the violence surrounding the publication of the Danish cartoons
2006 – March 7: From November 4, 2005 to March 7, 2006, 28 American periodicals published some or all of the cartoons; 10 of these were university newspapers.
2006 - March: Studi Cattolici publishes a cartoon that pokes fun at Italian politicians who cave in to Muslim pressure. Even though Muhammad does not appear in the cartoon, Italian Muslims profess outrage, and the Catholic organization Opus Dei (one of whose members publishes Studi Cattolici) promptly issues an apology.
2006 - April 6: Police foil another plot by fundamentalist Muslims to bomb the Cathedral of Bologna, which contains a 15th-c. fresco depicting Muhammad in Hell (see also 2002). Today the public is denied access to the part of the church where the fresco is situated. (See Muhammad: The "Banned" Images, p. 13 and no. 6.)
2006 - April 14: Protests in Egypt
2006 - April 27: Dutch judge rules that Ayaan Hirsi Ali must abandon her home, since neighbors complain that her presence is an unacceptable security risk to them.
2006 – April 1: Borders and Waldenbooks refuse to stock the April/May 2006 issue of Free Inquiry magazine, because it includes the Danish cartoons: "For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority," says a spokeswoman for the Borders Group. Paul Kurtz, editor in chief of Free Inquiry, says, "To refuse to distribute a publication because of fear of vigilante violence is to undermine freedom of press - so vital for our democracy."
2006 - July 31: Two men suspected of placing undetonated suitcase bombs in 2 German train stations claim they were inspired by the Danish cartoons (among other things)
2006 - September 17: Pope Benedict XVI apologizes to Muslims twice in 2 days for quoting (in a discussion of reason vs. violence) a 14th-c. comment by Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
2006 - September 26: Berlin Opera’s production of Mozart’s Idomeneo is cut short after two performances from fear of Muslim reprisals: Hans Neuenfels had added a scene that involved the decapitated heads of Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad.
2006 - October: London’s Whitechapel Gallery removes 12 works by Surrealist Hans Bellmer from an exhibition, for fear that the sexual overtones will be offensive to the Muslim population in the neighborhood
2008 - January 21: Iran warns that it will re-evaluate its relationship with the Netherlands if Geert Wilders' film Fitna is allowed to air; the film includes the Danish cartoons and condemns Islamic extremism.
2008 - February 12: Two Tunisians and a Dane are arrested and charged with planning to murder Kurt Westergaard, one of the 12 Danish cartoonists
2008 - February 13: Seventeen Danish newpapers reprint Westergaard's cartoon (the bomb in the turban one) as a show of solidarity
2008 - March 20: Osama bin Laden releases an audiotape calling the cartoons part of a "new crusade" against Islam, and threatening reprisals against Europeans
2008 - March 27: Release of Fitna by Geert Wilders, Dutch politician and chair of the Freedom Party; film includes the Danish cartoons and condemns Islamic extremism
2008 - August 12: Random House announces that it will not publish Sherry Jones’ The Jewel of Medina, a fictional account of the life of one of the wives of Muhammad, because “it could incite acts of violence.”
2009 - January 21: Amsterdam Court of Appeals orders Fitna filmmaker Geert Wilders prosecuted for the “incitement of hatred and discrimination”
2009 - February 10: Two days before the airing of Fitna in the Palace of Westminster, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith banns Wilders from entering the U.K. on grounds that he is an “undesirable person”
2009 - August 12: Yale University Press announces that it will not include any images in Klausen’s The Cartoons that Changed the World, a study of the effect of the Danish cartoons. John Donatich, director of YUP, says the decision to withdraw the cartoons was “overwhelming and unanimous, ” that he does not want "blood on my hands," and that the cartoons are freely available on the Internet and can be accurately described in words, so reprinting them could be interpreted easily as gratuitous.
2009 – October: Two men are arrested in Chicago and charged with terrorism, accused of plotting to murder Flemming Rose, who was responsible for the original publication of the cartoons
2009 – November: Somali high-school students attack a white student who wrote a paper arguing that Somali students were being given special privileges for being Muslims.
2009 – November 25: Appearances at Columbia and Princeton by Nonie Darwish, executive director of Former Muslims United and author of Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law, are canceled at the last moment under pressure from Muslim groups on campus.
2010 – January 10: Metropolitan Museum of Art announces that it will rename its Islamic galleries the “Galleries for the Arts of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia,” and that it is “reviewing” whether to include images of Muhammad in the renovated galleries.
2010 – April: The Comedy Central show “South Park” satirizes Muhammad. Islamists threaten violence. Obama administration does nothing to defend the show’s creators, Comedy Central, or free speech.
For footnotes, download the “Timeline” PDF on the Media page.
2010 – September: Molly Norris, the cartoonist who created the protest “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day,” is forced into hiding when an Islamic cleric calls for her murder.
For footnotes, download the “Timeline” PDF on the Media page.