December 17, 2008
Arabs: If the Shoe FitsBy Victor Sharpe
Apparently, showing the sole of your shoe to someone in the Arab world is a sign of extreme disrespect, and throwing your shoes is even worse.
Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was kidnapped by Arab terrorists last year, chose to show his bravery by throwing his shoes at President Bush while the American President was making a farewell visit to Iraq and speaking at a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. "This is a farewell kiss, you dog," Mr. Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes.
Palestinian Arab journalists in Ramallah joked about who would be brave enough to toss their shoes at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another U.S. official widely disliked by the Arab world. Even though Ms. Rice has made a career of expressing soulful, even if grotesquely misplaced, similarities between the Palestinians and the blacks during the American civil rights struggle, they still despise her. Maybe it is because she is a woman and in Islam even a female American politician is not to be taken too seriously.
But of course these Arab reporters know full well that they would never dare to throw a shoe or anything else at an Arab dictator, tyrant, emir, or king. If they did, they would be guaranteed a particularly unpleasant punishment, which would no doubt include painful amputations of various body parts. That is why Muntadhar al-Zeidi is a coward, for he knew full well that he can insult a western leader with impunity.
I am reminded about previous incidents involving shoes in the world of Islam that have taken place. Some years ago, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher was visiting the Muslim Waqf controlled Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem when a shower of old shoes, boots and sandals rained down upon him.
Maher was rescued from the revolting Palestinian Arab worshippers by an Israeli security squad while two Palestinian security teams stood by indifferent as the shoes rained down. Perhaps they were too afraid to confront the bare-footed mob. Anyhow, one unconfirmed source reported that the Egyptian Foreign Minister may have been overcome not so much by the shower of shoes as by the frightful odor that suddenly permeated the mosque.
The Egyptian Foreign Minister was taken to Hadassah hospital where Israeli doctors and nurses gave him sweet tea and bunches of delightful smelling flowers to restore his nerves and nasal passages. Another unconfirmed source reported that the Foreign Minister accused the Palestinians of "acting like heels."
An Egyptian official, who asked to remain anonymous, blamed Yasser Arafat, who was then the leader of the Palestinians, for the riot because Foreign Minister Maher had not made the obligatory pilgrimage to the terrorist's bunker in Ramallah. Arafat, in a pique of rage, decided it was time for the shoe to be on the other foot and ordered his ever ready rent-a-mob to use whatever weapons came to hand; hence the cache of old shoes.
Cairo was suspicious that the two Palestinian security teams at the mosque had advance knowledge of the shoe-bombing plot and had received orders not to intervene. Perhaps worse, the fear was that Arafat had lost control of al-Aqsa mosque to Muslim extremists who considered their victory a shoe-in.
However, the sole fall-out from the incident was a panicked succession of Palestinian officials who scurried to Cairo where they succeeded, metaphorically, in groveling at the feet of the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarrak.
Apparently, Mubarrak was incensed that he had sent his foreign minister, Ahmed Maher, to help unite the disparate and squabbling Palestinian terror groups in their confrontation with Israel, but in return saw Maher succumb to a barrage of assorted footwear laced with violent curses.
Perhaps the only redeeming fact for Maher was that, unlike British Muslim shoe bomber Richard Reid's shoes, the footwear of the al-Aqsa shoe rioters were not of the exploding type.
Many in the Arab media have wanted to boot out those Arabs in their midst who, as Gubran Tweini wrote in Lebanon's An Nahar newspaper, "adopt rejection, extremism and radicalism." These Arab media pundits, however, did not necessarily object to such extreme behavior; rather, they realized such behavior didn't look good in the international press.
Tweini described the behavior of the Palestinian mob at al-Aqsa as "the peak of Arab lowness." Presumably, elevated heels would not have redeemed the rioters in Tweini's eyes.
Tweini opined that "what happened to Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher, brought to memory the history of squalid inter-Arab relations. These, he claimed, were based upon "conspiring, setting up traps, using armies to oppress peoples, protect regimes and invade a neighbor - like Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, ‘a great deed' that brought to a climax the age of Arab collapse and deterioration."
Gubran Tweini's slow foot shuffle inevitably led him to the realization that the motto ‘if the shoe fits, wear it' governs the conduct of Arabs. Meanwhile, one can only hope the Arabs will one day be in-step with the rest of the civilized world.
And before concluding, who cannot forget British citizen, Richard Reid, the convert to Islam who with his size 15 shoes believed he would use them to blow himself up along with dozens of innocent passengers on a December 22, 2001 trans-Atlantic flight from Paris to Miami.
Reid attempted to light a fuse connected to plastic explosives in his shoe. He was subdued and restrained by passengers on that flight and taken into custody. On January 30, 2003, Reid claimed to be a member of the al-Qaida terrorist network, admitted allegiance to Osama Bin Laden, Islam and Allah, and declared himself an enemy of the United States.
Ever since, passengers flying domestically and internationally now have to remove their shoes while going through airport security before boarding their aircraft.
Weapons can be costly items to purchase. Though there is no absence of money circulating within the oil rich Arab world, sometimes the old preferred weapon remains the shoe.
Richard Reid, Muntadhar al-Zeidi and the Arab mob who showered Ahmed Maher with their shoes in Al-Aqsa seem to prove that in the Arab world one can still act violently on a shoe string.
Victor Sharpe is a freelance writer and the author of Politicide: The attempted murder of the Jewish state.