Reason, Liberty, & Culture

Lebanon Protesters Set Embassy Afire

Anger Over Caricatures of Muhammad Targets Denmark, Christian Neighborhood

Washington Post February 6, 2006; A01 edited extracts

BEIRUT, Feb. 5 -- Thousands of Muslim rioters (may involved as many as 20,000 Muslims), enraged over the publication of caricatures of Islam's prophet Muhammad, set ablaze the Danish Embassy on Sunday and rampaged through a predominantly Christian neighborhood, escalating sectarian tensions in a country whose melange of faiths can sometimes serve as a microcosm of the world's religious divide...

in the streets, fistfights broke out between Christian and Muslim Lebanese after protesters threw rocks at a Maronite Catholic Church, broke windows at the Lebanese Red Cross office and shattered windshields of cars. Bands of Christian youths congregated with sticks and iron bars, promising to defend their neighborhoods...

The Danish Embassy was gutted and its granite facade scorched. Acrid black smoke spilled out of its windows hours later, as firefighters tried to contain the blaze. Workers swept up glass that littered the streets of the neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh...The protests took on an especially provocative tone in Lebanon, given its large Christian population and the still vivid memories of its 1975-90 civil war.

Until last year, Syria's military presence and command of the country's intelligence services made it the power broker in its smaller neighbor...a 23-year-old Muslim, took a break from his job at a restaurant and smoked a cigarette. "These things shouldn't happen, but at the same time, you have to show respect for religion," he said. As he spoke, a firetruck barreled down the street, its sirens blaring. "There has to be respect," he said. "Without respect, you get this..."