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I saw the funniest and most interesting thing on the news yesterday. Seeing it repeatedly makes me chuckle just a little on the inside.. and then it ripples to the world.
After I saw two shoes thrown at our soon to be out the door president I had to know what the significance of shoe throwing could be in the Muslim World.
Crikey wanted to know too. Not limited to just Arab Muslim culture, but Middle Eastern religious culture generally (Jewish, Christian and Muslim), reference to someone or assault of someone with a shoe carries symbolic value in terms of Old Testament tradition. For instance, Psalms 60:10 (“Moab is my washpot, over Edom will I cast out my shoe…”) reveals that assault with a shoe is a traditional defamatory gesture for one’s enemies (Moab and Edom were both enemies of Judah).
In more strictly cultural terms, the shoe is representative of the foot, the lowest part of the human body. It is a sign of respect in Arab culture (and, many other cultures) that one does not show the sole of one’s foot or shoe to another. To do so can be taken as a sign that you consider that person of being beneath you. This is analogous to the practice in many cultures of leaving your shoes outside before entering a home or religious/sacred place.
The insult of the shoe can also be seen through some rather creative forms of verbal insult. For instance, whether at a football game, driving through the streets of Beirut or Cairo, or in the rather entertaining television debates on regional satellite TV, using phrases such as inta kundara (you are a shoe) or ibn al-kundara (son of a shoe) sit at the high end of insults, and are not to be taken lightly (i.e. don’t say it unless you really mean it, and are ready for a reaction).
The reporter said he was doing for the innocent people who had died b/c of the war. And while this incident is funny in a crazy political sort of way it makes one wonder. Are we as Americans a bit too subdued? Maybe we should have thrown our shoes at Bush a long time ago. Apparently, his security detail isn’t too worried..
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