The BBC World Service went to Denmark for some background on the cartoon controversy and talked to people on the street.
If they hadn't done that I would never have been aware that the current government of Denmark is a coalition that has a rightwing party involved. I also learned there are neo-nazis in Denmark, there are about 200,000 Muslim immigrants in the country, and there is a fundamentalist imam in Copenhagen.
Some people say that the newspaper at the heart of problem is a supporter of the rightwing party, but I can't verify that claim, because I can't read Danish well enough and I'm not in the mood to crawl through a newspaper with a Dansk Ordbog
There are people calling for immigration reform [Minut Mennesker
?], to prevent a flood of "swarthy foreigners" from displacing native-born Danes, or some such foolishness.
All politics are local. This started as a collision between the Danish right and this troublemaking imam. I know the imam is a troublemaker not only because a member of the Danish parliament who is a Muslim told the imam to shut-up or get out, but because the guy delivers his rants in English. If you are the leader of a congregation of immigrants in Denmark, why would you assume that congregation speaks English? If you are speaking to the world media and not the congregation, English is very useful.
This pattern is being reflected all over Europe, the rightwingers and fundamentalist Muslims start fights to play to their base. This time the problem got out of hand and the hardliners in the Muslim world are running with this "gift". Thanks to the re-printing of the cartoons in newspapers across Europe as the whole thing was dying down, it has gotten worse.
The part about the rightwing component of the Danish government goes a long way towards explaining why the Danish foreign minister has refused to meet with the ambassadors for Muslim countries. He has lost a couple of embassies since he made that decision, and should probably call all Danes home before they get kidnapped and/or killed in the current frenzy.
If it hadn't been the cartoons, it would have been something else. This is a continuation of what happened in France. Europeans invited in all kinds people to do the grunt work during the good times, and many European groups are trying to solve their problems by ejecting the children and grandchildren of those immigrants.
This thing has provided cover for every religious extremist in the Muslim world and set back the moderate voices a decade. The cartoons, with the exception of the one about running out of virgins, weren't even amusing.