Free-speech is one thing, but insulting religions is another. The Danish newspapers must have been aware that their little excercise in free-speech would lead to insurmountable levels of trouble. Although I strongly believe the Danish government should not apologise on the behalf of a couple of insignificant Danish rags, one has to ask was it really worth it?
Mind you, had the Danish newspapers published a Holocaust-denial story they may have found themselves in a courtroom. Strangely enough, the ever-shouting champion of free-speech, America, has not had any newspapers publish the cartoons, I believe. However, their flags are still being burnt alongside Danish ones, though we could blame the socilialists of Venezuela for that.
It is a great shame that a large number of Muslims live in undesirable conditions under corrupt dictatorships and oligarchies. Thus they, like the past and present Marxists of Latin America, look towards the West when casting the blame for their miserable states. A lack of money isn't the only issue however, as Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger discusses:
...countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism.
To back this up, one doesn't have to look far to see that a large number of terrorist leaders, both past and present, have been well-educated (often in the West) and from middle-class families (examples: a son of a lawyer, a doctor, a Rolex-wearing doctor, an engineer and a PhD in engineering).
One can argue the Muslim protests were inevitable with such high levels of tension. Regardless, it shows that economic liberalism and wealth isn't the only thing that the Muslim world needs. Also, I'd be selling any Danish company shares you may have.
Update I: I've been informed that the cartoons were published months ago in an Egyptian paper with no riots, and it has been the Imans of late stirring shit, so to speak.
Update II: An interesting piece in The Economist which somewhat echoes my sentiments with these words:
It is not a good idea for newspapers to insult people's religious or any other beliefs just for the sake of it. But that is and should be their own decision, not a decision for governments, clerics or other self-appointed arbiters of taste and responsibility. In a free country people should be free to publish whatever they want within the limits set by law.
Update III: The odd American paper has published the cartoons.