Danielle Crittenden: Get Ready to Burn Through Some Books
Today kicks off Banned Books Week: the Huffington Post Canada and Indigo have teamed up to bring our readers' attention to books that have been banned or challenged, both in North America and around the world. Starting tomorrow, we will feature one noteworthy book per day that has come under fire, either by a government or a community.
In our free society, attempts at censorship usually arise from offended religious or racial sensibilities. In recent times, the most notorious and explosive of these attempts occurred in 2005, when a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad; the cartoons had begun as illustrations for a book, but were rejected by the Danish publisher. Newspapers and magazines in more than 50 countries republished the cartoons in solidarity with the Danish newspaper, and in an effort to protest media self-censorship. Some 200 people were subsequently killed around the world in violent riots and protests by angered Muslims who called the images "blasphemous."
Even by 2009, publishers remained cowed: Yale University Press banned the images from a book about the controversy, entitled The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Danish-born professor Jytte Klausen. Despite objections from the author, Yale University Press further refrained from publishing "any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children's book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante's Inferno that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí."...
Whatever your opinion, remember that in Canada you are free to read a book, judge it on its merits, and discuss it openly. That is not true in many countries around the world. Again and again throughout history, books have served as the inspiration and the engines for revolution against non-free regimes. We will be featuring some of those great works this week as well. Join books discussions on our Facebook page as well as at Indigo. But above all: read!