Europe’s cartoon crisis with Islam began here in Denmark, and on Sunday thousands marched in Copenhagen to say sorry. They called for peaceful dialogue to end the violence. Denmark’s political leaders appealed for calm, and for the leaders in the countries concerned to help them to defuse the situation.
Foreign minister Per Stig Moeller also sought to distance Denmark and its people from the original publisher of the cartoons, the country’s largest conservative newspaper. He underlined Denmark’s position on religious respect and freedom, and stressed his horror at the violence. However the violence continues to spread, with the Danish embassy in Beirut the latest to burn. In this attack one of the protestors died, caught in the flames on the roof. Shops and churches in the Christian quarter of the city were also stoned. Battles broke out with the Lebanese police, who made a number of arrests including Syrians and Palestinians. Several police and fire service vehicles were wrecked. The violence led to the resignation of the Lebanese interior minister Hassan al-Sabaa, who explained he had had a terrible choice to make; try to stop the crowd of thousands from getting to the consulate, or use weapons against them. He affirmed that he would never order the use of arms against the Lebanese. European-based Muslims again made their feelings felt on Sunday. About a thousand marched in Paris, more took to the streets of Brussels and marched to the state broadcasting centre to ensure they made the evening television news. It seemed to be a spontaneous rally of mostly young people, growing from a few dozen around lunchtime to around 4000, organised via SMS messages on mobile phones.