Danish Muslim Cartoon Protests Kill Four Six

Four people have died in riots protesting the Danish Muslim cartoons, BBC reports.

Four people have died as demonstrations against cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad intensify. Three people were killed when police in Afghanistan fired on protesters after a police station came under attack, a government spokesman said. In Somalia, a 14-year-old boy was shot dead and several others were injured after protesters attacked the police.

Demonstrations have also been taking place in India, Thailand, Indonesia, Iran and Gaza. They followed attacks on Danish embassies in Syria and Lebanon over the weekend. The cartoons were first published in a Danish newspaper.

Monday’s deaths were thought to be the first, but officials in Lebanon have now confirmed that a demonstrator died on Sunday after jumping from the third floor of the Danish embassy in Beirut to escape a fire.

So far, at least, most of the deaths have been among the protestors rather than innocent victims. (It’s not clear from the report what the status of the Somali boy was, although at 14 his culpability would be limited.)

[Update: The actual number of dead is six, according to the AP.]

Afghan security forces opened fire on demonstrators Monday, leaving at least four dead, as increasingly violent protests erupted around the world over published caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. European and Muslim politicians pleaded for calm. The worst of the violence was outside Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, with Afghan police firing on some 2,000 protesters as they tried to break into the heavily guarded facility, said Kabir Ahmed, the local government chief. Two demonstrators were killed and five were injured, while eight police also were hurt, he said. No U.S. troops were involved in the clashes, the military said.

Afghan police also fired on protesters in the central city of Mihtarlam after a man in the crowd shot at them and others threw stones and knives, Interior Ministry spokesman Dad Mohammed Rasa said. Two protesters were killed, and three other people were wounded, including two police, officials said. The demonstrators burned tires and threw stones at government offices.

The unrest also spread to East Africa as police in Somalia fired in the air to disperse stone-throwing protesters, triggering a stampede in which a teenager was killed and raising to six the number of deaths in protests related to the publication of the series of cartoons satirizing Islam’s holiest figure.

Michelle Malkin has plenty of photos and other information rounding up the violent protests.

Zeyno Baran issues a rather bizarre, especially coming from the Counterterrorism Blog, call for appeasement while calling for no appeasement:

If the latest set of incidents in relation to the cartoons is not a wake up call, then I don’t know what will be one. Denmark has been the key target of the radical Islamists, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, for years; they even have a webpage in Danish. In 2002, Fadi Abdel Latif, the spokesman for HT Denmark was already referring to the Koran and urging the killing of Denmarks’ members of the Jewish community. Since then HT Denmark has incited Danish Muslims to kills members of the government and encouraged Muslims to go fight the Americans in Iraq. Denmark like many Western countries has for too long been “tolerating intolerance” which I have been now arguing for many years. They should not have tolerated such incitement to violence. No Western or Muslim government should tolerate people calling for killing of people in the name of their religion—tolerating such statements is appeasing the radicals, and is betraying the more than 90% of Muslims who do not want to be represented by these people who claim to speak in their name.

Similarly, the West also should not have tolerated insulting the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims in the name of “freedom of speech”. Regardless of the initial purpose of publishing the cartoons, once it was made clear to non-Muslims how in the Islamic faith Muslims don’t even portray the face of their Prophet, common sense should have prevailed. Second, in the atmosphere when radical Islamists (those using violence and those who have different tactics) are trying to convince the world’s Muslims that the “war on terror” is really a “war on Islam” and the “Christian world” is united against the “Muslim world” and “we are already in a clash of civilizations” it is extremely depressing to see that over 4 years after 9/11, so few Western leaders, strategists and commentators have understood how these cartoon case was going to be used by the “enemy”—the enemy of not just the “Western civilization” but of those 90% of Muslims.

So, we shouldn’t appease the radicals who call for violence–yet we should appease them by halting any form of speech that they might use to incite violence? Color me confused.

Update: Victor Davis Hanson thinks the Europeans, at least, have woken up.

[S]uddenly in 2006, the Europeans seem to have collectively resuscitated. The Madrid bombings, the murder of Theo van Gogh, the London subway attacks, and the French rioting in October and November seem to have prompted at least some Europeans at last to question their once hallowed sense of multiculturalism in which Muslim minorities were not asked to assimilate at home and Islamic terrorists abroad were seen as mere militants or extremists rather than enemies bent on destroying the West.

On January 19, Jacques Chirac warned that his military would use its nuclear forces to target states that sponsored terrorism against France […] the Europeans pointedly warned the Iranians that further enrichment was unacceptable and that the use of force to prevent acquisition of an Iranian bomb could not be ruled out. A Europe that once dismissed as retrograde America’s anti-ballistic missile system may well soon be in range of Iran’s envisioned nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

The Dutch suddenly agreed to deploy up to 1,400 troops in the more dangerous regions of southern Afghanistan. That show of fortitude prompted NATO to boast that its European and American forces may soon go on the offensive against many of the most recalcitrant Taliban strongholds.

When a Danish paper was threatened for printing cartoon caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad, neither the government of Demark nor the usually politically-correct European Union tried to impose censorship in the face of Arab boycotts, rioting, and not-so-veiled threats to make life difficult for Scandinavians. Instead, newspapers all over Europe reprinted the cartoons, ignored Arab threats—only to witness the United States State Department of all governments offer limp-wristed palliatives about cultural sensitivity rather than principled support of the surprising European defense of free expression and speech.

Hopeful signs, indeed.


See all of the images in full size at my Danish Muslim Cartoons page.

Related stories below the fold.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Burgess says:

    Perhaps I can help uncolor the confusion:

    Yes, Western governments should not have tolerated the calls for violence against Jews and Christians promoted on Islamist websites. That takes tolerance too far in that it does not immediately call for a halt to violence.

    But no matter the issue, throwing fuel on a fire — and there certainly is a fire — is generally not wise.

    The cartoons were and are protected by rights of free speech, generally valued highly in the West. Even obnoxious and offensive speech is protected.

    That the Muslim East does not place similar values on that right, preferring instead to value things like community and religion higher than individual rights, does not change the fact that freedom of speech is of paramount importance in the West, generally speaking.

    But it doesn’t take a clue-train to realize that insulting a religion is going to anger the followers of that religion, whether or not the anger reaches the level of violence.

    While we tolerated “Piss Christ” and other unpleasantries, plenty of people (Christians of various stripes) were angry. They just didn’t start burning buildings and demanding executions. Many did try to get the government involved, at least to the level of defunding whatever agencies may have provided any funding for the obnoxious art. I seem to recall that other, equally obnoxious art had been vanadalized by true believers, as well.

    I think the Danish paper made a mistake — though the right to make that mistake is protected. If they knew that there was something “iffy” about portraying Mohammed, and they did, then they might have made their point a little more tactfully. For example, plain illustrations — without political import — would have done it. So would have republication of historical images of the Prophet. Several of the cartoons were contentious, to say the least. (I do realize that other, more scabrous cartoons that were not part of the Danish paper’s efforts may have been the proximate cause for the anger, but that doesn’t really change my point.)

    I believe that Salman Rushdie, as the editors of the Danish paper, knew exactly what they were doing: poking Muslims with a stick. Rushdie, raised a Muslim, certainly knew where the hot buttons were, but chose to push them anyway.

    They had the right to do so. State Dept. said that. But State also said that it was pretty dumb to exercise that particular right in that particular way. Zeyno Baran is making that point.

    If you know you’re going to get a reaction — possibly a violent, but certainly an intemperate reaction — if you do something, you don’t necessarily have to do that, even if you’ve the right to do it.

    I think the editors of Jylland-Posten were careless in how they chose to make a point. I’m sure they did not intend deaths, destruction, and millions of dollars of damage to the Danish economy as a result of their editorial decision. Nor, I’m sure, did Newsweek anticipate deaths and riots to follow its editorial decision to publish a story about toilets and the Quran.

    I think that Baran is suggesting that editors need to pick their fights, or at least the tactics they use in their fights, in a better way. There are those — including UBL and some Muslim-bashers in the West — who do want a civilizational battle. Aiding them, as both publications did, is not in our general interest.

    So yes, there’s a right to publish. But there is not an obligation to publish.

    Note: This does not address the issue of provocation — or prevarication — by those who used the publication to ratchet up emotional anger. But it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to know that there are people out there who will do exactly that. While they should not have veto power, it must be realized that they do have some power. They will use that power when they think it serves their purposes. Here, it served the purpose of successfully driving a wedge between the Muslim world and the West.

  2. G A PHILLIPS says:

    John, are you telling me it is our fault, that the wedge between the muslim world and west is our fault? If you tell the truth and someone kills you for it, then it is your fault? so telling the truth of the evils of Islam is muslim-bashing, or better yet a hate crime, so we need to get whats coming to us. you need to read their so called bible and learn that this is what their so called faith is all about. And then you might find that we are in a civilizational Battle till the end of human time, and no matter how much respect show them, they shall show you none.

  3. Herb says:

    Muslims make everything a heated point to riot, burn, destroy and kill anyone ane almost everyone to satisfy their passion for blood. In short, they totally lack self control and any sence of tollerance whan it comes to their radical religon. I am sick and tired of those who keep preaching “Islam is a Peaceful Religon”. Let me see some proof and peace for a change and a stop this Muslims rioting, distruction and killing they are so fond of committing.

    If Muslims continue this behavior, then it’s time for the civilized world to ship them out and let them practice their radicalism in their own lands behind a fence.

  4. John Burgess says:

    I’m not at all suggesting that it’s “our fault.” Clearly it isn’t. My only point is that choosing to poke a stick at someone who’s already paranoid is most likely to lead to unwanted reactions. As it has.

    It may also lead to wanted reaction, but only after the violence has passed. That’s sort of tough luck for the people who get killed in that violence. It’s also tough luck for the stick-pokers and their friends, because those who react violently don’t really spend much time on getting their targetting exactly right.

    Is it worth it? Maybe. But I don’t particularly want to be one who gets killed by a fanatic who can’t aim properly, or who assumes that “All them Xs” are against us, when I’m an X.

    I’m certainly not saying that the bad and intemperate aspects of various Muslims’ conception of Islam shouldn’t be pointed out. I am saying that one doesn’t need to peg a rock at them everytime they do something stupid. Save it for the really egregious problems.

    As the saying goes, sugar sometimes works better than vinegar…

  5. Herb says:

    John Burgess:

    It seems to me that most everyone in the World has hurled mounds of sugar at the Muslim extremists to appease them in every way, But, The Muslim extremists will and only use Vinigar in response. You might address your comments to the Muslims, it would be more appropriate.

    I will tell you about the Muslim stupidity, In Lebannon, they ransacked the Danish Embasy, throwing out computers and everything not tied down out the windows, They then set fires after that distruction. They set the fires as they went from floor to floor. Then they had to be rescued from the top floor because thay could not retreat down the floore they set fire to.

    Mahammad didn’t teach them very well, did he?

  6. Randall says:

    I share concerns about stirring up masses of fanatics, but I have other concerns as well.

    I am concerned that telegraphing our fear of offending people whose beliefs are obviously diametrically opposed to what “we” (i.e., Western Civilization) value – or used to value – will only encourage them to flex and expand their capacity to intimidate.

    I also am concerned that, in a free society that is nevertheless cowed by certain fanatics, public expression will be twisted and perverted. We will mock and ridicule a fading religious tradition that – at the very least – managed to coexist with science and democracy, while refraining from or curtailing criticism of a religious tradition that proudly proclaims its violent hostility towards principles we hold dear, or used to.

    Whatever the risks of inflaming the crazies, the risks of caving to them are not insignificant.

  7. Herb says:


    Looks like you have caved in already.

  8. John Burgess says:

    Stupid people deserve to be pointed out as being stupid. But that’s not what this idiocy is about.

    According to the editors of Jyllands-Posten, they were trying to make a point that Danish illustrators were afraid of signing drawing pictures of Mohammed for a children’s biography of Mohammed. They enlisted twelve cartoonists to submit cartoons of Mohammed, which they then printed.

    They were attempting to demonstrate that Danes (or illustrators) should not be afraid of doing so. Some of the pictures submitted were, to say the least, contentious; all of them challenged Muslim believes about the appropriateness of illustrating the Prophet.

    Perhaps those Muslim’s beliefs need to be challenged. I’d like to read a reasonable explanation of why a Dane’s take on that matter is more “worthy” than a Muslim’s take.

    Had the paper run only illustrations — pictures without the political slaps in the face — probably nothing would have been made of it. But by crossing an already tricky line by politicizing Mohammed–e.g. bomb in the turban — the paper went beyond making its point. It entered the realm of insult.

    Maybe you’re down with insulting religions. Personally, I find it tacky even though I follow no particular religion. I think it rather stupid, in fact, to goad believers for believing. That’s why I find people like Richard Dawkins so tedious.

    So, having goaded at least some Muslims, the paper found itself at the center of a storm. Perhaps they hoped to do that, but that’s not what they claim.

    Both sides of the issue have gone hyperbolic, turning a newspaper stunt into a matter of civilizational clashes. Of course there are stupid Muslims who are going to go all extreme. We know that after Newsweek if we didn’t already.

    We also know that newspapers cannot exist without some degree of free speech (not all countries deal from the same deck here, but you get the point). We in the West also believe — with just as much fervor as Muslims — that free speech is the sine qua non of democracy.

    But Western zealots find this a convenient hammer with which to bash Islam, based on the over-reactions of some.

    Of course I’m going to come down on the side of free speech: that’s my culture. I was brought up in it and I use it daily. But you have to realize that as strongly as I feel the need to protect freedom of speech — and I go much further than most Europeans — I do not hold the monopoly on fervently held cultural beliefs. There are a lot of people who don’t agree with my — or likely, your — stance.

    They may be perfectly wrong. By my cultural lights, they are. But they also think that I’m wrong by their standards.

    Since there’s no authoritative book of truths out there, we both run a risk of being wrong. I’ll stick by my arguments; they’ll stick by theirs.

    It is prudent, at the least, to realize what toes one is about to step on before treading heavily into other people’s gardens. Jyllands-Posten didn’t do that. And we all have this fine spectacle to watch. And yeah, rather tough for the six people who died for the idiocy.

    What is worst is that people–for many different motives–have been able to spin this into exactly what the extremists want: a war between the West and Islam.

    I’ll agree that one can’t live ones life based on how someone of ill purpose could spin what you say. But it is not pusilanimous to realize that that can happen and to factor that in to one’s public statements. Any politician knows that.