Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cartoon fracas: Beirut is burning

Protesters Torch Danish Embassy in Beirut

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Muslims protesting caricatures of Islam's prophet set fire Sunday to a building housing the Danish Embassy in Lebanon as security forces fired tear gas in an attempt to stop the protesters.

. . . Lebanese Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani denounced the violence, saying there were infiltrators among the protesters trying to "harm the stability of Lebanon." Speaking on Future TV, he appealed for calm and said there were some who were trying to exploit the protests to cause trouble and "distort the image of Islam."

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora also urged calm.

"Those who are committing these acts have nothing to do with Islam or with Lebanon," said Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. "This is absolutely not the way we express our opinions."

Saniora suggested some in Lebanon may have been inspired by what happened in Syria. "It is as if (the Syrian protests) were a lesson to some in Lebanon to do the same," he told Future TV.

The trouble in Lebanon threatened to take a sectarian spin as protesters stoned the nearby St. Maroun Church, one of the city's main Maronite Catholic churches, and private property in Ashrafieh, a Christian area near Beirut's commercial district. Muslim clerics were seen trying to stop the protesters.

The demonstrators also attacked policemen with stones and set fire to several fire engines, witnesses said. Black smoke was seen billowing from the area. They also burned Danish flags.

Justice Minister Charles Rizk, speaking on LBC television, called on those who hold influence with the protesters to help end the upheaval.

"What is the guilt of the citizens of Ashrafieh of caricatures that were published in Denmark? This sabotage should stop," said Rizk, a Christian.

If you don't know, Lebanon is a country split between Muslim, Christian, and Druze (kind-of-sort-of an Islamic spin-off sect); religious differences played a huge part in the civil war they went through that is still far too fresh in memory. I find it very encouraging that Muslim clerics are apparently trying to rein in people and show them that this is not how Allah would have them behave; unfortunately, I think many people have their own idea of what "submission" to Allah demands.

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