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Violence in the wake of the cartoon controversy UPDATE

by Gjermund E Jansen Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 11:09:20 PM EST

The cartoon controversy took a rather nasty turn today when a demonstration in the Syrian capital Damascus, was hijacked by a violent mob.  It all started when the mob broke a rather meagre police barrier and turned on the Danish and Norwegian embassies putting them ablaze.

 

Burning Norwegian
embassy in Damascus

Thousands of Syrian demonstrators stormed the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus today, setting fire to both buildings in protest against caricatures of Islam's prophet.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators who had moved on to the Norwegian embassy after setting fire to the Danish embassy, about six kilometres (four miles) away. But the protesters broke through police barriers and set fire to the building, shouting "Allahu Akbar"

A Norwegian news agency quoted an unnamed embassy employee as saying no Norwegians were inside the building at the time.

Protesters then moved toward the French embassy, some nine kilometres (six miles) away.

"With our blood and souls we defend you, O Prophet of God," they chanted.


CNN reports;

(.....)Muslims in Europe have reacted less passionately than their counterparts in the Mideast and Southeast Asia,(.....)  Meanwhile in Gaza and the West Bank a leader of the Islamic militant Hamas group, which recently swept Palestinian parliamentary elections, told an Italian newspaper on Saturday that the cartoons were an "unforgivable insult" that should be punished by death.

"We should have killed all those who offend the Prophet and instead here we are, protesting peacefully," Mahmoud Zahar, a top leader of the militant Islamic group that won the January 25 Palestinian elections, told Italian daily Il Giornale.

"We should have killed them, we should have required just punishment for those who respect neither religion nor its holiest symbols," Zahar was quoted as saying.


The Norwegian Foreign
Minister Jonas Gahr Støre
Both the Norwegian and the Danish governments condemned Syria, Saturday, for failing to uphold its obligations by international law and in an interview with the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG), the Norwegian Ambassador to Syria said that when the cartoons were re-published in newspapers all over Europe on Friday, he had expressed his concerns over the matter of the embassy security to Syrian authorities, but seemingly to no avail.    

The Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a press conference this evening that he had called his Syrian colleague Farouq al-Shara in Damascus and expressed the seriousness of the situation and added his great dissatisfaction with the performance of the Syrian security forces in protecting the Norwegian embassy.  The Syrian foreign minister replied by apologizing the violation of Norwegian sovereignty and promised to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.


The Syrian Foreign
Minister Farouq al-Shara
"Our preliminary reports indicates that both the buildings housing the Danish and the Norwegian embassies were set ablaze and burned to the ground", the foreign minister said, when asked about the conditions on the ground, but added that no embassy personnel were in the buildings at the time of the fire due to notifications of the demonstrations in advance.  At the same time he expressed a great surprise over how the incident unfolded.  

What seemed to be a peaceful demonstration was allowed to escalate into rampant vandalism by the torching of the Danish embassy, then the mob moved on towards the Norwegian embassy, covering a distance of about six kilometres (four miles) seemingly unhindered, and continued their rampage by torching this embassy too.  

It has to be said though that the Syrian police managed to surround the building  housing the embassy, but somehow the mob passed the barriers and managed to get into the building and do their ill deeds before the police were able to stop them.

What is puzzling by this whole affair though, is how a mob of this magnitude, in a security state like Syria, was allowed to move unhindered towards their second target a good six kilometres (4 miles) away, after torching the Danish embassy.

UPDATE

On Sunday, a demonstrations in Beirut of more than 15000 participants, against the publishing of the Muhammed cartoons by the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten, turned violent and lead to the torching of another Scandinavian diplomatic mission, this time the Danish general consulate. The mob then turned their eyes on the Christian neighbourhood. The Lebanese authorities reported that many of the activists arrested by the police were foreigners, more specific, Syrians bussed into Lebanon from neighbouring Syrian towns and Palestinians residing in the country.

This article is also available at Bitsofnews.com.

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I posted this in the European Brunch thread as well, but I thought I'd put it here to.

Al-Jazeera is now reporting a fire in the Danish consulate in Beirut.  They have video of smoke rising from the building.  They are definitely saying consulate, not embassy, I'm not sure if Denmark has both there.

All the bystanders Al-Jazeera is interviewing at the scene, including a Muslim cleric, are calling for calm and saying that it is against Islam to attack and burn, that the Prophet Muhammed would not approve of this violence.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:38:14 AM EST
CNN is now reporting the clashes between demonstrators and police, as well as between demonstrators and demonstrators.  The embassy is is a Christian neighborhood, and it appears that Lebanon's sectarian divisions are playing a part in this.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:50:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry to hijack your diary, Gjermund, and I do hope to comment on the substance of it sometime today.

But for now, more bad news.

Al-Jazeera:  Danish embassy in Beirut torched

This is awful.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:05:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no need to be sorry, this is dramatic news evolving by the minute so keep on the good work of providing us information.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 11:48:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have asked him/her to crosspost here, but another American has a great diary on dKos (The Cartoons: A Manufactured Controversy? (Illustrated)) with information that suggests that the Danish muslims that toured the Middle East added 3 REALLY offensive cartoons (you can find them linked to in the above diary, and in the 3 links below) to those prepared for JP.

http://ekstrabladet.dk/grafik/nettet/tegninger40.jpg
http://ekstrabladet.dk/grafik/nettet/tegninger38.jpg
http://ekstrabladet.dk/grafik/nettet/tegninger39.jpg

The source is the Gateway Pundit, but as it quotes only people like Michelle Malkin, the Belmont Club and other well-known hard right types, I don't know what to make of it. The Brussels Journal has more detail, but it is also a hard right site.

Any additional info (especially analysis of this: http://www.ekstrabladet.dk/VisArtikel.iasp?PageID=329877) would be helpful.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:42:21 AM EST
Not an analysis, but here's a quick translation of the Ekstra Bladet article:


Showed Pedophile Mohamed

Imams toured the Middle East with far more provoking images than Jyllands-Posten's drawings. See the documentation here

By Allan Larsen and Kåre Quist - 9:55 - 12. jan, 2006
When a group of Danish imams recently toured all around the Middle East to gather support for their criticism of the much debated Mohamed-illustrations in Jyllands-Posten and of prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the drawings was apparently not provoking enough for the purpose.

Ekstra Bladet can now document, that the delegation also brought pictures and drawings, that among other things show the prophet Mohamed depicted as both pedophile and equipped with a pigs snout - and there is also one controversial picture of a praying Muslim, who is being raped analy by a dog.

But that is gross manipulation and draws a completely wrong image of the ordinary Dane's attitude towards Muslims, responds the critique now from both left and right in the political landscape.

43 pages of documentation
Ekstra Bladet has gained possession of the provoking material, the delegation toured the Middle East with. You can see the documentation by clicking the links underneath.

In today's edition of Ekstra Bladet you can read Kasem Ahmads explanation of, why it was necessary to bring the provoking pictures.

Ekstra Bladet is one of the two large Danish tabloids. Like most tabloids they are always on the lookout for a good scandal or a striking front page, sometimes even when the source material might need a little shine up for dramatic effect. I wouldn't put too much trust in this newspaper, although I would rate it far above, f.ex., most English tabloids in reliability. I'll check if there are coverage of this story in the more trustworthy Danish media.

Biilmann Blog

by BobFunk (bobfunk@clanwhiskey.net) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 08:15:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well this will insure the backlash against euro Muslims is bigger
by observer393 on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 09:00:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks BobFunk !

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 11:46:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, Jerome for the links.  You can read some information out of them though, even if they are rightwing sources, you just have to be very careful in not buying into their superfluous noise and their obscured conclusions.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 11:45:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The swedish embassy, situated in the same building as the danish in Damascus, has thus also been torched. Noone harmed. Except complaining in accordance to protocol, the swedish line can best be described as "look here, we are not danish".

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:04:36 PM EST
An editorial "cartoon" from El Pais today:

Once upon a time there was a king of Persia who decided to throw an atomic bomb on Copenhagen due to his displeasure over a Danish caricature of Mohammed.

The Queen of Denmark and mother of Hamlet, Mrs. Freedom of Expression, begged her colleagueElizabeth of England to throw another nuclear device on Tehran, which the sobereign did with enthusiasm crying "blood, sweat and tears!" and supported by Bush II of the USA who, in solidarity with the Kings and Queens of Christendom, threw another bomb over Baghdad and a smaller one over Havana.

And thus began World War III, with the patriotic participation of 54 countries and the heroic sacrifice of 300 million dead people, or more.

In addition, the philosopher Huntington wrote a prophetic book called "I told you so".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:38:18 PM EST
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 04:51:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also have to say I have some problems to see the relevance, does this mean we should not defend human rights and the right to free speech if it makes someone angry, and could cause some turmoil ?

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Geir E Jansen on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 05:58:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it is relevant as a cartoon on violence in the wake of the cartoon controversy.

There is one important point in it, and that is that sometimes the proximate cause of a large conflict is something unlikely small. In this case, cartoons. The deep cause might be Huntington's "I told you so" of civilizations. We still don't know how large this conflict will get.

Maximo, as a cartoonist, constantly gets in trouble because of his use of God and nudity even if his style is very abstract (his God is usually just an eye in a triangle, and every August he publishes a series of cartoons with beach nudes illustrating verses from the Song of Solomon).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:09:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, sure, right, of course. On one hand, on the other hand. Fair and balanced. A plague o' both your houses. Etc.

Tripe.
by Francois in Paris on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 02:13:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Half the time I don't get Maximo's "humour" either. I am not even sure I do this time.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:15:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Geee, talk of irrelevant. Now we're truly plumbing the depths of idiocy.

Can we burn El Pais' headquarters to the ground? (I'm a fast learner :>)
by Francois in Paris on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 02:08:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thinking about the news reports, I honestly don't think the secular governments of Syria and Lebanon (especially the latter as it has a weaker grip) could control the mobs involved without actually killing some protesters. Damned if you do, dambed if you don't. It is these kinds of situations where oppresive regimes (such as Syria's) can have their ultimate weakness and illegitimacy exposed. It might be a revolutionary moment. In the case of Lebanon there are reports that 10,000 people were involved in the protest around the Danish consulate, and that water cannons and tear gas were unable to contain the mob.

Knight Ridder: At least 30 injured in protest as outrage over cartoons spreads

In Damascus, Syrians burned a building that houses the Danish, Swedish and Chilean embassies after receiving text messages calling on them to defend their prophet. The crowds were stopped en route to the French embassy.

"I don't like that it resulted in a fire - that's not a part of our religion and our prophet. But we also have to admit to the fact that we are under so much pressure," said Fouad Tarabeine, a Syrian businessman. "The political situation, the pressure we have from the state. So, this was a kind of release. This was the straw that broke the camel's back."

The violence in Beirut started when thousands of Muslims gathered near the Danish embassy, which is located in the Christian area of Ashrafieh. A small group of demonstrators pushed through cordons and set fire to the embassy, overturned cars and broke the windows of a Maronite Catholic church. Lebanese forces used tear gas and water cannons to beat back the crowds.

The event quickly took on ugly sectarian undertones in a capital still scarred by Lebanon's bloody, 15-year civil war. Unknown Christian militants sent text messages to cell phones that read, "Launch the Christian nation of Lebanon. It is never going to end unless you prepare your weapons." Muslims, meanwhile, rolled out their prayer carpets on the streets of the mostly Christian neighborhood in an act viewed as a provocation.

"There were infiltrators among the demonstrators who do not express the opinions of the thousands of Muslims who participated in the peaceful protest to slam the Danish cartoons," said Asaad Harmoush, the head of an Islamic group that organized the demonstration in Beirut.

The Lebanese government called an emergency cabinet meeting Sunday night, while both Shiite and Sunni Muslim leaders condemned the violence. Senior Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah issued a religious order banning flag burnings and attacks on embassies, and urged Muslims to show their outrage by joining the boycott of Danish exports.

"They are free to print what they want to print, but we are also free to believe what we want to believe," said Khaled Mustafa, an Egyptian pursuing his doctorate at a university in Belgium, where a petition circulated against the cartoons. "Now is not the time for something like this. The media is already focused on the troubles of the Muslim world. All we see on TV is Iraq and Palestine. I don't feel we need this kind of trouble now."



A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:03:01 PM EST
You might be right about Lebanon, but even if Syria is much weaker than it used to be, nothing happen within that country without the leaders knowing it and especially such a huge gathering of people. I suspect Syria had another agenda:

  1. To delude the domestic resentments towards an external issue.

  2.  To show the "West" that "you can not bully us that easily," using smaller Scandinavian countries as their point of example.

  3.  They sympathized with the people in their anger.


Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:42:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The incident in Lebanon was filmed. the security forces backed off and left the demonstrators to burn the consulate. The securtiy forces then returned and asked them to leave, which apparently they did.
by observer393 on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 04:01:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Embassies have been burned.  I watched the television in horror this morning as smoke and flames rose from the Danish consulate in Beirut.

The Lebanese interior minister has resigned after failing to contain the riots.

As Migeru and I discussed elsewhere, failing to protect foreign embassies is a violation of the Vienna Convention and could have diplomatic consequences for Lebanon and Syria.

Denmark and Norway have lost their embassies.  So have Sweden and Chile, who had nothing to do with this fight at all.

But the cost of this violence is so much greater than mere damaged diplomacy.  

In Lebanon, which has suffered so much sectarian strife over most of my lifetime, the crisis has merged with Lebanon's domestic troubles and inflamed the sectarian tensions at a critical time.

And lest we forget, these are people we're talking about.

I spent part of the day in electronic conversation with friends, via e-mail and text messages.  I've never actually been to Lebanon (supposed to go this week, though) but I have a fairly large number of Lebanese or Lebanese-American (or Lebanese-Australian) friends, and a few other friends who live in Beirut or happened to be there today.

The consensus was horror.  And fear.  (And also the firm believe that Syria and Hizballah are behind it, but that's for another post....)

I don't want to quote them directly, because I haven't asked any of them if I can.

A Lebanese-American friend who lived in Beirut for years was appalled, horrified, and embarrassed that all Lebanese will now be painted with this brush.  She said the rioters were behaving like hiwan, or animals.

She forwarded me an e-mail from one of her friends in Beirut, who painted such a terrifying and sad picture.  She lives in Ashrafiya, the neighborhood where the Danish consulate was.

She said once the rioters were chased away from the consulate, they ran amok through the neighborhood, trashing everything they could find.  They smashed shop  windows and cars.  They attacked a church.

She said the protesters ran down her street, trashed a car and stoned several buildings.  She said they tried unsuccessfully to storm the Swiss ambassador's residence, which is on the same street.

(At this point I find myself thinking, the Swiss ambassador?  What the hell do the Swiss have to do with this?)

She shut all the windows and sat inside, scared.

Other friends were terrified for a different reason -- their young daughter was trapped at school, and it was quite some time before they were able to work their way there to retrieve her.

I post this to remind everyone that Europeans (and Chilean diplomats) are not the only ones suffering from this outbreak of violence.  The rioters may have numbered in their thousands, but Beirut is a city of two million, and many if not most of those people are every bit as appalled at the violence as you are.  And more afraid of it, because it's closer.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:30:44 PM EST
Swiss newspapers have also re-published the cartoons.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 06:44:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They got the flags mixed up.

Schweiz:

Dänemark:



"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 07:06:44 PM EST
Following this logic the next ambassy in line to be torched will be the English one.

England:



"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Sun Feb 5th, 2006 at 07:14:00 PM EST
To the People of Norway and Denmark:
We Are Sorry

In the middle of all the mayhem surrounding the Danish cartoons controversy, a group of Arab and Muslim youth have set up this website to express their honest opinion, as a small attempt to show the world that the images shown of Arab and Muslim anger around the world are not representative of the opinions of all Arabs.  We whole-heartedly apologize to the people of Denmark, Norway and all the European Union over the actions of a few, and we completely condemn all forms of vandalism and incitement to violence that the Arab and Muslim world have witnessed.  We hope that this sad episode will not tarnish the great friendship that our peoples have fostered over decades....

Vi Beklager     Undskyld      We Are Sorry

More here.  H/T: Egyptian Sandmonkey

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 10:07:55 AM EST
Also, the Egyptian anti-boycott club has graphics:

H/T: Freedom for Egyptians and Big Pharaoh, among others.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 10:29:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is praiseworthy and shows that the violence in Syria and Lebanon is not something that can be pinned on all Muslims.  The fact that these people chose to apologize for something others have done speaks well of these people even though this was not necessary.  As I have said before the violence seems to have escalated when extremists hijacked peaceful demonstrations.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 12:28:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent initiative. That's precisely what is needed and helps in defusing the tensions between "them" and "us".

Thanks for posting this.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 05:14:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We'll be Drawing Old Muhammad on the Wall

(music: She'll be coming 'round the mountain,
http://www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/lyrics/mountain.htm)

We'll be drawing old Muhammad on the wall,
We'll be drawing old Muhammad on the wall,
For even Muslims must admit it,
You don't need a special permit,
To be drawing old Muhammad on the wall.

We'll be spraying old Muhammad on the wall,
We'll be spraying old Muhammad on the wall,
With graffiti that's persisting,
We will show that we're insisting,
On our right to spray the Prophet on the wall.

We'll be painting old Muhammad on the wall,
We'll be painting old Muhammad on the wall,
Now some claim that He's angelic,
So we'll paint Him psychedelic,
We sure hope He likes His pictures on the wall.

We'll be etching old Muhammad on the wall,
We'll be etching old Muhammad on the wall,
The time has come to make our stand
Or our rights they will get banned,
And we'll find ourselves lined up against the wall.

(If you like this, please re-post it elsewhere on the Internet.)

by ImaBlogger on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 05:02:26 PM EST
Nice first post...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 05:05:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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