The first Norwegian newspaper I saw upon arriving here had a front page photo of protestors somewhere in the Middle East burning the Norwegian flag. A small conservative Christian paper had made Norway the second country to publish the Danish cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed as a terrorist. Islam forbids any depiction of the Prophet.

Over the weekend things got considerably more serious when a mob ransacked the Norwegian consulate in Damascus as Syrian police watched on. In Beirut, protestors set the Danish embassy alight and on Monday the Danish embassy in Tehran was also destroyed in a mob attack. No one was hurt in the Damascus attack, but the apartment upstairs belonging to a secretary from the embassy was destroyed taking with it her partner’s PhD thesis.

The news reports have proven an interesting introduction to Norwegian politicians. I watched as Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, head of a left-of-centre coalition that won a parliamentary election in September, condemned the Damascus attack. ‘He held the Syrian government responsible for failing to quell the protest and said the government will ask for compensation for damage from Syria as well as raise the matter with the United Nations because this is a violation of international law.

One news story I read said that an anti-immigration party came second in September’s election with nearly a quarter of the vote. Norway has a population of around 4.6 million, including about 160,000 Muslims mainly living in Oslo many of them in my neighbourhood.