Canada's Largest Retail Bookstore Bows To Fear of Anti-Cartoon Demonstrations,

and removes from its shelves the current issue of Harper's Magazine — the issue that reprints the cartoons in the context of an article by Art Spiegelman, the author of Maus and other graphic novels.

The cartoons are at the center of one of the most important censorship debates of this decade. Seeing them is necessary to evaluate the debate. Harper's is one of the leading general-interest magazines in North America. Art Spiegelman is one of the top cartoonists now living. And yet the fear of demonstrations — which presumably refers to the fear of violent demonstrations — apparently led Canada's largest retail bookstore to buckle. Sad.

From The Toronto Globe and Mail:

Canada's largest retail bookseller has removed all copies of the June issue of Harper's Magazine from its 260 stores, claiming an article by New York cartoonist Art Spiegelman could foment protests similar to those that occurred this year in reaction to the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Indigo Books and Music took the action this week when its executives noticed that the 10-page Harper's article, titled Drawing Blood, reproduced all 12 cartoons first published last September by Jyllands-Posten (The Morning Newspaper).

The article also contains five cartoons, including one by Mr. Spiegelman and two by Israelis, "inspired" by an Iranian newspaper's call in February for an international Holocaust cartoon contest "to test the limits of Western tolerance of free speech."

It's unclear what part, if any, the five cartoons played in the Indigo ban; phone calls to its Toronto headquarters were not returned yesterday. In 2001, Indigo founder and CEO Heather Reisman ordered all copies of Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf pulled from stores, describing the book as "hate literature." Two years later, she helped found the powerful lobby group the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy.

In a memo obtained by The Globe and Mail that was e-mailed to Indigo managers yesterday about "what to do if customers question Indigo's censorship" of Harper's, employees are told to say that "the decision was made based on the fact that the content about to be published has been known to ignite demonstrations around the world. Indigo [and its subsidiaries] Chapters and Coles will not carry this particular issue of the magazine but will continue to carry other issues of this publication in the future." ...

If you have more information on this story, please post it in the comments. Thanks to reader John Thacker for the pointer.