Cartoon furor deepens divisions
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As a result, the controversy has allowed fringe organizations like Al-Ghurabaa to present themselves as defenders of Islam.Skip to next paragraph
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"People feel targeted because they are Muslims," says Shehadi. "The only people they see standing up for Islam are the radicals."
Across Europe, Muslims are reacting to the cartoons in many ways, their perceptions shaped by local coverage and their experiences living in Europe.
In France, France Soir reprinted all 12 cartoons. For the country's 5 million Muslims, the gesture added to concerns raised by the government's banning of the hijab, or head scarf, in government buildings, some say.
"These caricatures of the prophet, that's more serious. Things could go farther. Yes, I'm angry - everybody's angry," says Hassan Defi, an unemployed handyman in the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, where fierce rioting occurred last year. "One should have the right to express oneself, but in a way that doesn't attack any religion."
In the neighboring suburb of Bondy, the director of the local mosque, Mohamed Meniri, concurs. "Freedom of expression must exist - it's necessary," he says, shivering outside his mosque as snow swirls around his shoulders. "But if [non-Muslims] are allowed to express themselves in their way, then we must be allowed to express ourselves in our way. We at our mosque advise calmness. We must do all that is possible to make ourselves heard, and to say that we must live together."
The manner in which the protests were carried out around the Muslim world often reflected the prevailing political environment in each country. In the Gulf, the protests have been few and peaceful, with anger manifested in a boycott of Danish and Norwegian goods. But the protests have taken on a more violent edge in the increasingly lawless Gaza Strip.
In Syria, the tense struggle with the West - chiefly over Iraq and its support for alleged terrorist groups - shaped the rare outburst of violence in Damascus on Saturday. Street demonstrations there tend to be organized by the authorities rather than spontaneous manifestations.
Lingering problems between Syria and Lebanon also provided context for Sunday's demonstration in Lebanon, with some Lebanese saying that the instigators of the violence were pro-Syrian activists.
"It's very hard to separate the local motivation from the global motivation," says Rami Khouri, a Beirut-based syndicated columnist.
Mr. Nahas, of thisissyria.net, hopes that dialogue will emerge from the violence. "In a way these events may have brought people together," he says. "My European friends want to know more and I want to explain how we feel. And this same freedom of expression is, after all, what we are calling for in the Arab world."
• Nicholas Blanford in Beirut and John Thorne in Paris contributed to this report.
• Sept. 30, 2005: Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten publishes 12 cartoons of Muhammad.
• January 2006: Norwegian publication reprints cartoons. Boycotts, diplomatic protests intensify against Denmark.
• Jan. 30: Gunmen storm EU offices in the Gaza Strip. The Danish paper apologizes.
• Feb. 1: Papers in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain run reprints.
• Feb. 4: Mobs burn the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Chilean embassies in Syria. Protests in Denmark turn violent.
• Feb. 5: Danish Consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, is torched.
Source: Compiled from wires.