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Rallies, political cartoons, letters on campus

Click to see the cartoon that caused a stir at Berkeley in its entierety  

By Richard Stenger

(CNN) -- Whether holding peace demonstrations, staging a sit-in or flooding their newspapers with letters to the editor, college students are dealing with perhaps their greatest test, making sense of the September 11 calamity.

On Thursday, many campuses joined in a nationwide rally for peace at noon, including Cornell, Columbia and Harvard universities and Hunter, Vassar and Oberlin colleges.

Student organizers said they wanted to demonstrate support for Americans in need without fueling resentment against Arabs and Arab-Americans.

"This rally will not be divisive or anti-American: We are just making sure that the voices of millions of peaceful Americans and residents are heard and considered," they said in an e-mail statement beforehand.

One of the participating schools, the University of California at Berkeley, was still reeling from the furor over a political cartoon in the student newspaper.

Heaven and hell

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On Thursday, the Daily Californian reported that someone had hacked its Web site and posted a bogus apology for a Tuesday sketch that some deemed offensive to Muslims.

The day before, more than 100 student protesters occupied the paper's campus lobby for ten hours, demanding that it apologize in print.

The Daily Cal did not, arguing that the Tuesday cartoon represented the opinion of the artist, not the paper's editorial board, and that the subject "falls within the realm of fair comment."

In the picture, two men in turbans, robes and long beards appear in a large hand, surrounded by the flames of hell.

"We made it to paradise! Now we will meet Allah and be fed grapes and be serviced by 70 virgin women," said one. The other drops a book titled "flight manual."

The caricature was intended not to stereotype Muslims but to depict the terrorists who last week hijacked and crashed planes into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania, said Darrin Bell, a syndicated cartoonist and Berkeley alum.

The culinary and erotic rewards are mentioned in a how-to book on terrorism, linked to Osama bin Laden, the Islamic extremist that U.S. authorities speculate masterminded the attacks.

"This is one of the main ways he recruits. If they martyr themselves for Islam, they would go to heaven for all these rewards," the Oakland, California, illustrator said. "That it is completely at odds with what Islam teaches. Islam means peace. Two of its cardinal sins are murder and suicide."

"I thought it was a valuable commentary, on the idea that killing 5,000 people is a one-way ticket into heaven. It's a tremendous irony, that they are going to reach the opposite of their aims."

'Many people are afraid'

At the University of Texas in Austin, students responded to the attack with a mixture of anger, confusion and fear.

"Many people are afraid," said Marshall Maher, editor of the university newspaper, looking over a string of letters from students.

Some letters addressed the terrorists directly: "You crumbled the World Trade Center. We're still here. You hit the Pentagon. We're still here."

Others revealed the anxiety of a comfortable generation that has never known firsthand anything resembling war.

"Aside from the ones who are downright angry and calling for war, you can kind of tell that there's a real shock. There's a real vulnerability," Maher said.

-- CNN Correspondent Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.

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