Yale University hosted a visit on Thursday by the Danish cartoonist, whose controversial image of the Prophet Muhammad provoked violent protests in the Middle East and Africa in 2006. .
Cartoonist Kurt Westergaard spoke about free speech to students just one day after the release of a book by Yale University Press exploring the Danish cartoon controversy and the violent protests that followed. His now-iconic image of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban was a focus of the riots which killed some 200 people.
21-year old senior Fatima Ghani was among a dozen Yale students peacefully protesting Thursday’s event. She says Westergaard’s drawing should not be seen as free speech, but hate speech. "People don’t see this the same way they would see a swastika or they would see the ‘N” word. They see bigotry against Muslims in a different category than they see bigotry against other races or religions. And that’s something that needs to change right now."
Westegaard says free speech means the right to communicate things people don’t want to hear. He describes cartoonists as artists whose satirical drawings are provoked by the world around them He tells the story of a German air force officer who sees Picasso’s painting “Guernica” and its violent images. "The German says to him, “Was it you who did Guernica?” “No” answersPicasso. “It was you”. I think this is a good little anecdote which illustrates the role that provocation really plays. "
Yale University Press has faced a storm of criticism over the newly-released book. Officials, citing security concerns, removed all the cartoons. The book is called “The Cartoons the Shook the World”. Coincidentally, the book author was also on campus on Thursday. Security was heightened for both visits.