Iraq rally for Bush shoe attacker

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Iraq rally for Bush shoe attacker

Post by Guysanto » Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:41 am

Iraq rally for Bush shoe attacker

Thousands of Iraqis have demanded the release of a local TV reporter who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush at a Baghdad news conference.

Crowds gathered in Baghdad's Sadr City district, calling for "hero" Muntadar al-Zaidi to be freed from custody. There were similar scenes in Najaf.

Officials at the Iraqi-owned TV station, al-Baghdadiya, also called for the release of their journalist.

Iraqi officials have described the incident as shameful.

A statement released by the government said Mr Zaidi's actions, which also included him shouting insults at President Bush, "harmed the reputation of Iraqi journalists and Iraqi journalism in general".

The government has demanded an on-air apology from his employer.

An Iraqi official was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the journalist was being interrogated to determine whether anybody paid him to throw his shoes at President Bush.

He was also being tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV channel said Mr Zaidi should be freed because he had been exercising freedom of expression - something which the Americans had promised to Iraqis on the ousting of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Any measures against Muntadar will be considered the acts of a dictatorial regime," the firm said in a statement.

The programming director for al-Baghdadiya, Muzhir al-Khafaji, described the journalist as a "proud Arab and an open-minded man".

He said he was afraid for Mr Zaidi's safety, adding that the reporter had been arrested by US officials twice before.

"We fear that our correspondents in Iraq will be arrested. We have 200 correspondents there," he added.

'Proud Arab'

Mr Zaidi leapt from his chair at Sunday's news conference and hurled first one shoe and then the other at Mr Bush, who was joined at the podium by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

The shoes missed as Mr Bush ducked, and Mr Zaidi was immediately wrestled to the ground by security guards and frogmarched from the room.

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," he yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

Arabic TV stations have been repeatedly showing footage of the incident, which was also front-page news in many papers.

Correspondents say the journalist's tirade was echoed by Arabs across the Middle East who are fed up with US policy in the region.

"He [George Bush] deserves to be hit with 100, not just one or two shoes. Who wants him to come here?" said a man in Baghdad.

But his view was not expressed by everyone.

"I think this incident is unnecessary, to be honest. That was a press conference, not a war. If someone wants to express his opinion he should do so in the proper manner, not this way," said another Baghdad resident.

Story from BBC NEWS: ... 783608.stm

Published: 2008/12/15 13:22:56 GMT


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Post by Guysanto » Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:26 pm

Published on Monday, December 15, 2008 by The Guardian/UK

Shock and Awe on A Shoestring

by Khaled Diab

Muntadar al-Zaidi will go down in the annals of popular protest as the man who kissed the Bush presidency goodbye by hurling his shoes at the outgoing president. On Sunday, the Iraqi journalist who works for al-Baghdadiya television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, stood up during a joint press conference with Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Malaki, and threw his shoes at Bush on behalf of the "the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq".

While throwing your shoes at someone would be considered insulting in any culture, in the Arab world, the gesture has a special potency: footwear is commonly used to deliver both verbal and physical insult. In Egypt, for example, many popular and colourful insults include the mention of shoes: "You son of a shoe", "You have shoes for brains", "You'll follow me like an old shoe", etc.

Although their offensiveness is largely lost in translation, delivered in Arabic they are a sure-fire way of getting people's backs up. But why this obsession with shoes? Does it reflect a weird foot fetish? One shoe-lover I know found the whole episode a terrible waste of a pair of perfectly good shoes.

The offensive power of shoes probably has something to do with the lowly status of the shoe, which resides, downtrodden with its face in the dirt, all the way at the bottom of the clothing hierarchy. That's why worshippers leave their shoes outside mosques.

That is probably why hot-blooded working-class Egyptian women sometimes take off their shoes or slippers to hit men who harass them on the street: to show that the man belongs in the gutter and is not worthy of contempt. Bizarrely and inexplicably, slapping someone on the back of the neck and calling them a "nape" ('afa) is also a huge insult.

"This is your farewell kiss, you dog!" Zaidi yelled, delivering a second insult, popular in Arabic. In English, there is a gender distinction. While "bitch" is an insult, "dog" has less impact in English. But the same does not hold in the Arab world: if you call someone "ibn kalb" (son of a dog), you're insulting both the person and his forebears.

The reason could be a difference in cultural perceptions, while dogs in the Anglo-Saxon world are widely seen as "man's best friend", in the Muslim world, dogs are regarded as impure animals and usually not kept as pets, except for security purposes. Other popular insults involve mothers and fathers, genitalia and graphic sexual acts, as in many other languages, and, as the word "swearing" in English implies, religion, such as "Curse the religion of your father".

While this "shoe incident" is little consolation for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have suffered under the crush of the Bush administration's boots, many Arabs are applauding Zaidi's audacity while others believe he overstepped the bounds of decorum. Let's just hope that journos will not, as a consequence of this isolated act, be forced, under new Homeland Security regulations, to remove their shoes before entering White House briefings and other presidential media events.

Zaidi has been arrested for his act. Of course, had he caused Bush physical injury, he could have been charged for that. But his action was essentially one of freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to cause offence. If President Bush believes in any of his own rhetoric, he should join the chorus of voices calling for the journalist's immediate release.

© 2008 Guardian News and Media Limited
Khaled Diab is a Brussels-based journalist and writer.

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