Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cartoon fracas: Scandinavian embassies burning in Damascus

Syrians Torch Embassies Over Caricatures

DAMASCUS, Syria - Thousands of Syrians enraged by caricatures of Islam's revered prophet torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus on Saturday — the most violent in days of furious protests by Muslims in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

In Gaza, Palestinians marched through the streets, storming European buildings and burning German and Danish flags. Protesters smashed the windows of the German cultural center and threw stones at the European Commission building, police said. [As someone noted in a combox somewhere, how in the heck did people in the Palestinian Authority territory get all those Danish flags so quick-like??? It's not like they have the kinds of Flags-R-Us stores we have here in North America.]

Again, why is this happening?

At the heart of the protest: 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad first published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten in September and reprinted in European media in the past week. One depicted the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. The paper said it had asked cartoonists to draw the pictures because the media was practicing self-censorship when it came to Muslim issues.

Geez, I don't think they have any evidence to prove that now, do you?

Diplomatic response: The good:

Aggravating the affront, Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said repeatedly he cannot apologize for his country's free press. But other European leaders tried Saturday to calm the storm.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said she understood Muslims were hurt — though that did not justify violence.

"Freedom of the press is one of the great assets as a component of democracy, but we also have the value and asset of freedom of religion," Merkel told an international security conference in Munich, Germany. [Of course, she's a woman and an infidel, what would she know?]

. . . British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who has criticized European media for reprinting the caricatures, said there was no justification for the violence in Damascus.

"We stand in solidarity with the Danish government in its call for calm and its demand that all its diplomats and diplomatic premises are properly protected. It's incumbent on the Syrian authorities to act in this regard."

But Denmark and Norway did not wait for more violence.

With their Damascus embassies up in flames, the foreign ministries advised their citizens to leave Syria without delay.

"It's horrible and totally unacceptable," Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said on Danish public television Saturday.

The okay-but-kinda-lame:

The Vatican deplored the violence but said certain provocative forms of criticism were unacceptable.

"The right to freedom of thought and expression ... cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers," the Vatican said in its first statement on the controversy.

I'm thinking there's gotta be more context to that. Better check cwnews.com. Eh, on second thought, that sounds exactly like something Sodano would say.

A Syrian who gets it:

Amid the furor, Syria's Grand Mufti urged calm, noting the demonstration had started in a "nice and disciplined way," but then turned violent because of "some members who do not understand the language of dialogue."

"We never expressed our anger in such a way, and we believe that dialogue should be done through guidance and teaching, not through killing, harming and burning," Sheik Ahmed Badr-Eddine Hassoun said in remarks carried by state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, or SANA.

Well, quite, Sheik. Because this just reinforces in Western minds that Islamic countries are tottering put-up jobs funded by Western aid money and oil sales, full of people who seem nice one-on-one but collectively go insane over their religion. And if you think this is going to put the devil blaspheming European infidels in their place, well, I hate to tell you, but it's probably going to start having the opposite effect. So, just keep going if you like. We don't have to send aid checks, we don't have to buy oil, we can kick people who aren't citizens out of our countries (we don't like to do it, but we can do it) -- just keep riiiiight on going.

If this is what we have to look forward to in Dar-al-Islam, I think I'll just stay an infidel, thankyouverymuch. And I'll fight to my last breath to stay that way. (Am I channeling Lepanto and Vienna now?)

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