Page last updated at 19:17 GMT, Sunday, 5 February 2006

Embassy burning shocks Beirut residents

Both Muslims and Christians in Beirut tell the BBC News website of their shock and sadness at the violence that broke out at the Danish embassy during protests over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

For many Lebanese, such violence is cause for concern in a country where religious divisions played a major part in 15 years of civil war.

Vivienne Casparian, Lebanese Christian

Vivienne Casparian, a perfume retailer, lives in the building next to the Danish Embassy.

Vivienne Casparian
Why didn't they do [a cartoon] of Jesus too?: Vivienne Casparian

"I watched from the window until the smell of the tear gas became too much. Our electricity was cut off. I was worried my flat would catch fire," she said.

"I heard bullets against the wall (from security forces firing in the air), like in 1975 when the war started, when I was 13.

"For a second I was really afraid, I said to my mother 'this time we are not going to make it'."

She said most of the demonstrators were being peaceful, but she felt some protesters were trying to stir up conflict between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon

"They destroyed cars in the neighbourhood, and they smashed our church - but I think Christians are smart enough not to retaliate. I'm not worried about that," she said.

"I am against the caricature the newspaper made of Muhammad. If they did a Muslim one, why didn't they do one about Jesus too?"

Rana, 22-year-old Lebanese Muslim

Rana, a sports teacher, says she was protesting peacefully with her friends in front of the embassy when trouble broke out.

"There were two protests. The first one, that we were on, was peaceful. Then the others came.

"They started to throw tear gas. We were all crying like babies and choking. Boys started throwing rocks - we ran," she said.

"I went to protest in support of my religion, I was surprised that this happened.

"If I was a Christian I would be very upset with Muslims [about the damage to cars and a church], but they have to believe it was not us," she continued.

"I am not afraid about the future, I have faith in my country. We have to have confidence in each other."

Charles Accra, Christian, economics student

Charles Accra lives in a street close to the Danish embassy.

Charles Accra
They were mad: Charles Accra

"I was at home. I saw it on TV, then I heard shouting and I looked and there were thousands of people," he said.

"I was watching them smashing the cars, they had small axes. They were mad - it was like we were the Danish people. They smashed my cousin's car windows."

"I think it's foreigners, or people who support the Syrians. They want war - it's better for them if the Lebanese are fighting each other.

"I want to do something about it but I can't, if we respond it's like we give them what they want."

Bilal Daibo, Muslim, English teacher

Bilal Daibo was out for lunch in the centre of Beirut soon after the protests.

Bilal Daibo
I am boycotting Danish products: Bilal Daibo

"Whether what was done was by Lebanese Muslims or outsiders, those who did it were hooligans," he said.

"I would say I speak for 95% of the Sunni Muslim population when I say we are against any sort of destruction in Lebanon, against Muslims or Christians.

"It was an uncivilised act by a small group of people," he added.

"On the other hand, I think I speak for 95% of the Muslim population when I say we are against what the newspaper did - not only against Muhammad - if it was against Jesus it would be the same.

"I don't think there is much point in going on protests, but I am boycotting Danish products."

Gabi, Lebanese Christian

Gabi lives in a street behind the embassy.

She said: "Everybody is really shocked. The security forces didn't struggle to protect the embassy. They let the protesters come in.

"Christian people now think they have been violated. We don't believe the government can protect us any more.

"Maybe one day in the near future we will have to protect ourselves," she added.

"Lebanon is not about this type of people, it is a crossroad of civilisations, it stands for liberty and tolerance.

"If this is Lebanon, I don't want to be Lebanese."

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