1) December – Iraqi Journalist Throws Shoe at Bush: The Hidden Meaning
An Iraqi journalist, who threw a shoe at US president George W. Bush during a press conference, has become something of a hero in much of the Arab world, with hundreds protesting his release from prison.
Muntader al Zaidi was taken into custody and is being tried for his actions; he faces up to 15 years of imprisonment. Al Zaidi has quickly risen to legendary status for this – one Saudi reportedly offered to pay $10 million for the shoe in question. And the Turkish shoemaker who made the shoes is receiving new requests from all over the world. For Westerners the throwing of a shoe at a major political figure certainly classes as extremely bizarre and certainly shockingly unprofessional behaviour, but in the Arab world it is a much deeper insult.
Behind the news:
This incident is more symbolic than just the projecting of an object at a major international figure. In the Arab world the shoe and the sole of the foot is deeply offensive. In Arab culture it’s considered rude even to display the sole of one’s shoe to a fellow human being. Just changing the phrase ‘I’m going to thump you.’ To ‘I’m going to thump you with my shoe’ can escalate a situation. The sensitivity is related to the fact shoes are considered ritually unclean in the Muslim faith. As a result, it is common practice to leave shoes at the front of the house or outside the Mosque.
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