Bush cracked jokes last night after skillfully dodging a pair of incoming shoes, but the awkward banter masked a deeper symbolism. Bush is clearly persona non-grata in Iraq, and there’s no better evidence of this than the enormous and spontaneous protest that broke out demanding the release of Journalist who hurled those shoes. According to the New York Times:
Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets Monday to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush, as Arabs across the Middle East hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the unpopular U.S. president.
The Journalist is currently being held as Iraqi security forces attempt to determine if he was acting on his own behalf (though, based on his personal feelings on the invasion, which include marked contempt, he probably was). In addition, they are testing him for "alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence."
Although throwing shoes is the ultimate sign of disrespect in the Arab world, yesterday’s act is being roundly praised across the region. Evidence of the act's enormous popularity include:
- Riyadh residents declaring Sunday "the international day for shoes."
- In Ramallah, Palestinian journalists expressed amazement at the courage of the shoe tosser.
- The video is an instant facebook hit.
- On Jordanian remarked: ''Al-Zeidi is the man...He did what Arab leaders failed to do.''
The Iraqi reporter has become a hero overnight as he personifies the angst harbored by millions of Iraqis towards the US invasion and George Bush. According to the NYTimes report, organizations worldwide are attempting to gain al-Zeidi’s release. And the reporter's own employer said this:
Al-Baghdadiya television demanded Zaidi's immediate release, "in accordance with the democratic era and the freedom of expression that Iraqis were promised by U.S. authorities."
In the meantime, thousands of protestors in Bagdad and all across Iraq (and probably in parts of America) have gathered in the streets to throw shoes and shout chants like the following:
''Bush, Bush, listen well: Two shoes on your head."
Update: This just in, the New York Times has assigned Muntadhar folk hero status. According to the Times:
A day after an Iraqi television journalist threw his shoes at President Bush at a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday, his act of defiance toward the American commander-in-chief reverberated throughout Iraq and across the Arab world.
In Syria, he was hailed as a hero. In Libya, he was given an award for courage.
Across much of the Arab world on Monday, the shoe-throwing incident generated front page headlines and continuing television news coverage. A thinly veiled glee could be discerned in much of the reporting...
Opponents of the continued American presence in Iraq turned Mr. Zaidi’s detention Monday into a rallying cry. Support for the detained journalist crossed religious, ethnic and class lines in Iraq — vaulting him to near folk hero status.
The report also notes that Muntader faces seven years for his act of protest.