This article, reports that the Danish embassy in Beirut was torched by Lebanese protesters. At least 18 people were injured, although many protesters were themselves upset, because they had expected a peaceful protest. According to this source, Syrian protesters also torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus as well as accidentally damaging the Swedish embassy on their way to the French embassy. This article describes the event that triggered the protest in more detail: it seems that some members of "the Islamic world" felt that certain political cartoons were in poor taste. (This blog shows one of the cartoons in question.*) Rather than join the many who were writing stern letters to the editor, a few turned to violence.
(America and several European countries blame this on Syria, for failing to protect the embassies; presumably they also hold Lebanon responsible.)
So, Denmark find itself in a bit of national security crisis (the BBC describes Denmark as bemused by the whole thing), and their response is to apologize, while continuing to assert that they were right in printing the cartoons. That's not a real apology, in my opinion. Denmark (as well as other countries who printed or re-printed the cartoons) holds that it had every right to print the cartoons, because free speech is a basic tenet of democracy. Unfortunately, Denmark is learning that free speech does not cover being offensive for the sheer sake of being offensive, nor does it cover defiling holy symbols. It will be interesting to see how this minor insult (at least as far as Denmark is concerned) develops, and to see how violent the end response to this cultural insensitivity becomes.
As an aside, the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayef, responded to this crisis by saying, "We hope that religious centers like the Vatican will clarify their opinion in this respect." The Vatican did, indeed, clarify its position: "The right to freedom of thought and expression cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers." Denmark is over 95% Protestant, so I do wonder if they're really listening to the Vatican.
*Please do not click on the link if you are likely to be offended. Contents of the cartoon should not be construed as opinions of the author of this post, the Patterson School, or anyone else associated with this blog.