There are people whose jobs require some degree of worst-case thinking. I am one of them. Whole teams of threat assessment practitioners in my firm Gavin de Becker and Associates, spend their time developing contingency plans and responses to cover a variety of unfavorable outcomes.
NEW YORK CITY — In February of this year, the Danish newspaper Politiken issued a formal apology for republishing a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed clad with a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse. Politiken’s sister newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, had originally published the cartoon in 2005, along with 11 others of Mohammed. The publication of the cartoons was notoriously followed by violent protests and death threats from Muslims the world over. In issuing an apology, Politiken was in effect settling a lawsuit brought against them by 94,923 alleged descendants of the prophet.
Our Winter 2006 issue earned considerable attention as the first magazine in America to reprint, on its front cover, one of those now-notorious Danish cartoons of Muhammad. In the same issue, I editorially lambasted the rest of the Western media for surrendering to militant Islamists, and for refusing to publish these cartoons as a matter of principle. But the contagion of craven capitulation has spread faster than the bird flu.
The West once again has been forced to confront the clash of cultures. Muslims worldwide rage and riot over Danish newspaper cartoons that, in their eyes, commit the double sin of depicting Mohammad and satirizing him disrespectfully. Many Muslims consider any illustration of their prophet to be an insult to their religion. Of course, other religions often find their ideas and icons satirized or criticized. Yet rarely do they respond with death threats, riots, arson, and murder. 
In this issue, we’ve reprinted two of the now-infamous Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed. We do so not to gratuitously offend Muslims; we do so because a vital principle is at stake—a principle that easily trumps any considerations of ill manners or hurt feelings.  It is the founding principle of America: individual rights. For us, it is the pre-eminent concern for any publication or journalist: the right to speak and express oneself freely.  

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