Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Shoe Heard Round the Arab World

The Americans had their Boston Tea Party. The modern day equivalent for the Arab world might just turn out to be a shoe toss.

Quick, what is the name of the Iraqi journalist who flung his shoes at George w. Bush's head two days ago? It's a safe bet you don't know. It's a safer bet that Muntader al-Zaidi has now become a household name throughout much of the Arab world.

At first it began with a couple of other journalists at the Baghdad press conference loudly cheering Zaidi's act. Before long, crowds were massing in Sadr City demanding his release from custody. It's now being reported that a daughter of Libyan dictator Muammar Ghadaffi has awarded the Iraqi scribe some medal of honour.

The New York Times reports that al-Zaidi's protest seems to be gaining traction:

In the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, people calling for an immediate American withdrawal removed their footwear and placed the shoes and sandals at the end of long poles, waving them high in the air. And in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, people threw their shoes at a passing American convoy.

In street-corner conversations, on television and in Internet chat rooms, the subject of shoes was inescapable throughout much of the Middle East on Monday, as was the defiant act that inspired the interest: a huge and spontaneous eruption of anger at President Bush on Sunday in his final visit here. Some deplored Mr. Zaidi’s act as a breach of respect or of traditional Arab hospitality toward guests, even if they shared the sentiment.

“Although that action was not expressed in a civilized manner, it showed the Iraqi feelings, which is to object to the American occupation,” said Qutaiba Rajaa, a 58-year-old physician in Samarra, a Sunni stronghold north of Baghdad.

From Damascus to Beiruit and beyond the incident is stirring anti-American feelings.

Zaidi faces up to 7-years in a delightful Iraqi prison for the stunt. The Maliki government has called on his television network to apologize but, instead, the network chose to air a picture of Zaidi in a corner of their screen for most of the day.

No comments: