You could call them the caricatures that shook the world.
It began a week ago in response to Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten asking cartoonists in September to create some satirical drawings of Muhammad because the country’s media was self-conscious about criticisms of Islamic terrorism.
In the last week, other European papers picked up and published the cartoons and the result has been unprecedented rioting throughout the Islamic world.
Thousands of Syrians yesterday took to the streets and torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus in the most violent protests by Muslims in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
The rioters in Damascus began by throwing stones at the Danish Embassy. They broke through police barricades then set a fire in the building.
“With our blood and souls we defend you, O Prophet of God!” the demonstrators chanted. Some removed the Danish flag and replaced it with a green flag printed with the words: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
The riots moved on to the Norwegian Embassy about 4 miles away. They set fire to the building before dispersed by police using tear gas and water cannons. Hundreds of police and troops barricaded the road leading to the French Embassy, but protesters were able to break through briefly before fleeing from the force of water cannons.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, Palestinians stormed European buildings and burned German and Danish flags. Protesters smashed the windows of the German cultural center and threw stones at the European Commission building. A leader of Hamas called the caricatures “an unforgivable insult” that merited death.
There were peaceful rallies against the cartoons in Iraq where hundreds demanded an apology from the European Union.
The foreign ministries of both Denmark and Norway 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.
In the West Bank town of Hebron, about 50 Palestinians marched to the headquarters of the international observer mission there, burned a Danish flag and demanded a boycott of Danish goods.
A South African court banned the country’s Sunday newspapers from reprinting the cartoons.
Iran’s president ordered his commerce minister to study canceling all trade contracts with European countries whose newspapers have published the caricatures, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the caricatures showed the “impudence and rudeness” of Western newspapers against the prophet as well as the “maximum resentment of the Zionists (Jews) ruling these countries against Islam and Muslims.”