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Muslim cartoon protestors burn Danish, Norwegian embassies in Syria

[JURIST] Muslim Syrians set fire to both the Norwegian and Danish embassies in Damascus Saturday, protesting the European publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad and caricaturing him as a terrorist. Protestors first stormed the Danish embassy chanting "God is great," then moved on to the Norwegian embassy. Police fired tear gas into the crowd at the Norwegian embassy in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the protestors from setting it ablaze. The Danish government has urged all of its nationals in Syria to leave the country immediately and has condemned Syria for failing to protect the embassy, as it's obligated to do under international law. Originally published by the Jylklands-Posten newspaper in Denmark in September and then reprinted in Norway and then again this past week in other European newspapers [JURIST report], the cartoons have sparked Muslim outrage around the world - including diplomatic sanction, boycotts and death threats - because Islamic tradition bans any images of Muhammad. Newspaper editors have defended the publications as legal instances of free expression. Seventeen Arab nations have demanded that the Danish government punish the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten [media website, in Danish; controversy news archive, in English] for originally publishing the cartoons, while Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen [official profile] has said he cannot apologize for the actions of newspapers. Jylklands-Posten has itself apologized [JP letter to readers] for causing any offense to Muslims, but maintains that their publication was legal under Danish law. Earlier this week, violence flared [JURIST report] when members of the Front for Defenders of Islam [MIPT backgrounder] stormed the Danish embassy in Jakarta and gunmen surrounded an EU office in Gaza. A South African court Friday became the first court to ban the national publication [AFP report] of the controversial cartoons, responding to a request by the local Council of Muslim Theologians. A top South African newspaper editor has already announced plans to challenge the decision. BBC News has more.

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About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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