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Arabs: Glorifying the Shoe | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iraqi protestors are raising their shoes.

Children are playing with shoes in the streets of Baghdad.

The brother of Iraqi journalist Montadhar al Zaidi shows off his brother’s shoes with pride.

These were some of the scenes that have been recorded by the cameras in the wake of the “clear victory” that millions of Arabs have celebrated, namely the shoe-throwing incident that was carried out by the Iraqi journalist Montadhar al Zaidi who hurled his shoes at US President George W. Bush.

But let us leave Bush aside. The discussion that is taking place in our press is not focused on the American president and our opinion of him, nor do we need to remind ourselves of the disaster that the Bush administration has caused.

The issue here is about us and those shoes…

Campaigns in defence of the Iraqi journalist have been launched by Saddam Hussein’s former lawyer, Facebook groups and through the media where people have been describing Zaidi’s actions as “heroic”.

Some of those who consider themselves superior writers and intellectuals have not hesitated to predict that liberation is looming on the horizon and that Arabs will be arming themselves with shoes to liberate their lands and confront the occupying forces and imperialists. A number of sheikhs have described Zaidi’s actions as “an act of faith”.

This delusion within our press and media, and the reports that have circulated within them following this foolish and embarrassing incident has shown that we have reached rock bottom.

The shoe alone has come to represent the new Arab enlightenment project. After fundamentalism, killing and slaughtering, we can now celebrate the shoe and rejoice at a future that will be rich in shoes.

There is no comparison between Zaidi’s actions and the incident of the Iraqis beating the statue of the fallen president Saddam Hussein following the collapse of his regime in 2003, as that reaction occurred in completely different circumstances to the press conference.

According to his family and friends, Zaidi had been planning to take some sort of action for months even though he did not do so during any of the American president’s previous visits to Iraq.

Montadhar al Zaidi has put us journalists in a position where others are compelled to treat us as people who could potentially carry out similar actions to Zaidi.

Yes, we do have the right to hate Bush, reject his policies and be angry at him for the harm that he has caused to us. However, Montadhar al Zaidi does not have the right to throw shoes at him.

Montadhar, and those who celebrate his actions, have taken the weapons of persuasion, validation and opinion out of our hands and replaced them with a shoe.

To replace the power of our minds with shoes is the worst thing that could happen to us.

Is this the beginning of a recurring pattern?

For instance, as someone who believes that Syria’s role in Lebanon is similar to- or even worse than- the US role in Iraq, would I do the same thing to the Syrian president?

Absolutely not.