Iranian Soccer Team Joins Muhammad

How to defuse cartoon-related violence? Definitely not by publishing more offensive cartoons. The German embassy in Tehran came under attack on Tuesday after a German paper did just that. And in Pakistan, a protest got out of control. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been no stranger to the media in recent weeks. Given the uproar over the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published first in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten and then reprinted in papers across Europe, Rasmussen’s mission of late has been damage control — trying to tamp out the embers of flared tempers on both sides of the debate. How hard has it been? On Tuesday, Rasmussen said that the cartoon-related violence has been the small Scandinavian country’s most difficult foreign policy challenge since World War II. As for defusing the ongoing crisis, Rasmussen told reporters that it would be a “very difficult task.” Indeed. On Tuesday, violence related to the Muhammad cartoons flared once again. In Pakistan, over 1,000 demonstrators stormed into the diplomatic district in the country’s capital Islamabad. A separate mob of protesters in the eastern city of Lahore targeted Western businesses, damaging a Holiday Inn hotel as well as Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonald’s fast food outlets. Some 200 cars were likewise attacked in addition to dozens of shops and a portrait of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Two protesters were killed by security guards in Islamabad when they tried to force their way into a bank, according to the Pakistani interior minister. Police were able to halt the demonstrators before they damaged any of the embassies within the compound, but protesters gathered outside burned tires and broke street lamps while shouting “Death to America.” “We have come to the doors of the embassies to take our voice to the ambassadors,” said hard-line cleric Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, who led a group of lawmakers to protest before the gate leading to the embassy compound. “There is anger in the Islamic world. If they do not listen, their problems will increase,” he told the Associated Press. It was the first time that cartoon protests in Pakistan — which have been going on for over a week — had become so violent. In Iraq, the Basra provincial council on Tuesday demanded that Denmark withdraw its 530 troops from southern Iraq until the Danish government apologizes for the publishing of the cartoons. Denmark denied the request with Danish Defense Minister Soeren Gade telling reporters that Denmark would “certainly not” meet Basra’s demands. “Our foreign policy is not being decided by the provincial council in Basra,” Gade said. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday defended Denmark, saying in an interview with Jyllands-Posten that freedom of speech is a “fundamental value” in the European Union and that “it’s better to publish too much than not to have freedom.” It was the first time Barroso had commented on the brouhaha. Additional violent protests were seen in Iran on Tuesday as dozens of Iranian students attacked the German Embassy in Tehran with Molotov cocktails. While German facilities had emerged largely unscathed by cartoon-related protests so far, the publishing last Friday of a caricature depicting the Iranian national soccer team as suicide bombers in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel has nerves raw once again. “Germany, you are Fascists and the willful servants of Zionism,” the students chanted. The cartoonist responsible for the caricature, Klaus Stuttmann, has received a number of death threats since Friday and has moved out of his Berlin apartment for safety reasons. The Iranian Embassy has sent the paper a letter of protest calling the cartoon “tactless” and demanded an apology. The paper has said the cartoon was misinterpreted and that it is protected by the freedom of the press. In an effort to show its impartiality on the issue of cartoon insults, Iran on Tuesday officially protested the publishing of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary caricatures by a newspaper in Azerbaijan. The Iranian Embassy condemned the sketches as “rude and immoral.” Iran itself, meanwhile, has become the target of complaint. The Central Council of Sinti and Roma in Germany has sent a letter to the Iranian Ambassador in Germany complaining of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements that the Holocaust is a “fairy tale.” “The government in Tehran must respect these historical facts if it wants to become part of the international community,” read a letter sent to the embassy. Between 250,000 and a half-million Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.