Shoeing: Wikis


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President George W. Bush ducking a thrown shoe, while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attempts to catch it. "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq", shoethrower Muntadhar al-Zaidi yelled.[1]

Shoeing, throwing shoes, showing the sole of one's shoe or using shoes to insult are forms of protest primarily associated with the Arab world.[2][3]

Posters of George W. Bush's face have long appeared through the Middle East with shoes attached to them, and some people have called former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Kundara, meaning "shoe".[3] Shoeing received recent attention after Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his shoes at then U.S. President George Bush in a December 14, 2008 press conference in Baghdad, Iraq. Since the al-Zaidi incident, copycat incidents in Europe, North America, India, Iran and Turkey[4] have been reported.



Shoes are considered dirty in the Arabic World. Matthew Cassel of The Electronic Intifada in the context of the "Bush shoeing" incident has expressed the opinion that the Western media overplayed the phenomenon as being "Arab" in particular.[5]

Historically, the notion of shoes as a symbol of impurity is widespread throughout the Middle East and is not Arab or Islamic in particular. Exodus 3:5 has:

"And he [God talking to Moses] said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy ground."

When a Jewish priest, a Kohen, offers the Priestly Blessing in the Synagogue he removes his shoes prior to ritually washing his hands. Similarly, Muslims universally take off their shoes before entering a Mosque. The term for "shoe" or "sandal", na`al is glossed by Gesenius: "casting down a shoe on any country was a symbol of taking possession". In Acts 13:51, Paul and Barnabas "shook off the dust of their feet against them [viz. against the Jews of Antioch]" in an act of condemnation before continuing their journey. In Hinduism, taking off one's shoes is important as a mark of respect, especially when going to a place of worship. Throwing shoes is also a sign of disrespect in Indian culture, particularly if the shoe is made from leather.[6]

A 16th century Ethiopian bishop acting as an ambassador from Dawit II of Ethiopia, is reported to have told John III of Portugal that "We are not permitted to enter the church, except barefooted." Adam Clarke even suggested that the custom of worshipping the Deity barefooted was general among all nations of antiquity.[7]

In contrast, Al-Ghazali (11th century) questioned the custom of taking off shoes before prayer as an undue emphasis on "outer cleanliness":

The early Muslims concentrated their entire attention and energies on the purification of their hearts and were lenient in their outward cleanliness... it is better to say prayer with shoes than without shoes because when the Prophet look off his shoes with uncleanliness at the advent of Gabriel, the companions also took off their shoes. He told them: Why have you taken off your shoes? One of them named Nakhyi said: Perhaps someone in need may pass by and take these shoes. ... These things have now changed.[8]

Showing somebody the sole of a shoe is also considered an insult: Thus, as former U.S. presidential candidate Bill Richardson inadvertently exposed his sole during an interview with Saddam Hussein, with the faux pas instigated, Saddam temporarily left the room.[9]

Notable incidents


George W. Bush

On December 14, 2008, during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his shoes at United States President George W. Bush. "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog", yelled al-Zaidi in Arabic as he threw his first shoe towards the U.S. president.[1] "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq", he shouted as he threw his second shoe.[1] President Bush ducked twice, avoiding being hit by the shoes. Al-Zaidi was then pulled to the floor[10] by another journalist,[11] before being grabbed by Prime Minister Maliki's guards, kicked, and rushed out of the room. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was hit in the face by a microphone boom sent flying by a presidential bodyguard resulting in a clearly visible black eye.[12]

Some Iraqi reporters present at the scene offered apologies to President Bush. "Thanks for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me", Bush joked: "If you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw."[13] When asked about the incident by another reporter, Bush said "It's a way for people to draw attention. I don't know what the guy's cause was. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it."[14] When later asked to reflect on the incident, Bush said "I didn't have much time to reflect on anything, I was ducking and dodging." "I'm not angry with the system. I believe that a free society is emerging, and a free society is necessary for our own security and peace", he added.[15] "I don't think that you can take one guy throwing his shoe as representative of the people of Iraq", argued White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.[16]

The Turkish company that made the shoes thrown at Bush, Ramazan Baydan, experienced a surge in sales. Orders for 300,000 pairs were received in just 1 week.[17]

On 1st December 2009, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who first shoed Bush, got shoed himself in Paris by an exiled Iraqi journalist .[18] Zaidi later said "He stole my technique."[19]

Wen Jiabao

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was in London on February 2, 2009 speaking with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about economic cooperation and trade relations between China and the United Kingdom.[20] That day Wen was scheduled to give the Rede Lecture at the University of Cambridge entitled, "See China in the Light of Her Development". As Wen came to the end of his lecture, a man, later identified as a 27-year-old German national Martin Jahnke,[21] stood from the audience, blew a whistle and shouted, "How can the university prostitute itself with this dictator here? How can you listen to these lies he's telling?" Jahnke then threw his shoe at Wen, although the shoe landed a few feet away.[20] Fellow members of the audience shouted at Jahnke, "Shame on you", as he was escorted out of the auditorium.[22]

Jahnke was promptly removed from the lecture by university proctors and then arrested by police on suspicion of breach of the peace and attempted assault.[23] After the shoe was thrown, Premier Wen commented, "this despicable behaviour cannot stand in the way of friendship between China and the UK."[20] University Vice-Chancellor Alison Richard commented, "I deeply regret that a single member of the audience this afternoon failed to show the respect for our speaker that is customary at Cambridge. This university is a place for considered argument and debate, not for shoe-throwing."

Premier Wen urged leniency for the German student. "Education is best for a young student, and I hope he will have the opportunity to continue his education. The return of a prodigal is worth more than gold", said the message from Wen, posted on the Foreign Ministry website.[24]

A district judge later concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove that Jahnke's behavior had caused harassment, alarm or distress to the Chinese leader or anyone else in the lecture theater. Human rights campaigners cheered him as he left Cambridge Magistrates' Court.[25]

"I didn't want to hit the premier personally. I thought just placing the shoe on the stage would be universally understood. What it was meant to be was a symbolic protest. I didn't intend to hurt people."[26]

During his trial Jahnke's lawyers alleged that his prosecution was being pushed forward under pressure from the Chinese government, and that there had been political interference in the trial, though this accusation was dismissed by the trial judge due to lack of evidence.[27]

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

On March 6, 2009, independent Iranian news sites reported that during a trip to the city of Urmia, someone threw a shoe at the motorcade of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. People had become angry after the president's convoy hit an elderly man but did not stop.[28] A shoe had previously been thrown at Ahmadinejad at Amir Kabir University in 2006.[28]

P. Chidambaram

India's Home Minister P. Chidambaram was shoed on April 7, 2009 by Jarnail Singh, a Sikh journalist who works at the Hindi daily Dainik Jagaran.[29] Chidamabaram was asked a question by Jarnail Singh on the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He said that CBI was not under the home ministry, and no ministry of the government had put any pressure on the CBI. He said that "It is for the court to accept or reject or ask for further investigation by CBI. Let us wait for the court decision". When Jarnail Singh persisted with his questions, Chidambaram told him "no arguments, you are using this forum...". Following this the journalist lobbed his shoe saying 'I protest'. Thrown underhand with little force, the shoe narrowly missed hitting Chidambaram. (there is a view that it was never intended to hurt him anyways) The action caused a flutter in the hall.[30]

Chidambaram responded to the situation in a composed manner and even said that the journalist should be removed from the press conference hall gently. Chidambaram appealed to the reporters, "let not the action of one emotional person hijack the entire press conference. I have answered his questions to the best of my ability."

After the incident, Jarnail Singh said that he was sorry for the method of protest he adopted, but issue is right. He added that he felt upset that the government had not done justice in the anti-Sikh riots. Singh also appealed to journalists and others not to repeat his actions. Asked if he could have used some other manner to protest..."For the last 25 years this has been happening. So what other method is left (to protest)", Jarnail Singh said.[31]

Jarnail Singh was let off without any charges on the insistance of Chidambaram. The whole incident set off a major media feeding frenzy with 24x7 TV coverage and snowballed into a major election issue which embarrassed Congress politically. The police said that no complaint was lodged with them, and Chidambaram said that the journalist should be forgiven.[32] A few Sikh bodies came out in Singh's support and even offered rewards. The shoe throwing incident also sparked off widespread protests by Sikhs against the CBI which had given a clean chit to Tytler.[33]

After the shoe throwing incident, Congress calculated politically that all the media controversy created could make it lose many seats especially in Punjab. Fearing further controversy, Congress dropped both Tytler and Sajjan Kumar as congress candidates from Lok Sabha 2009 elections.[34]

Manmohan Singh

During an election rally, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came under a shoe attack in Ahmedabad on April 26, 2009. A 28-year-old man made an attempt to throw a shoe at the Prime Minister while he was addressing the rally. The shoe landed a few meters away from Dr Singh. Soon after the incident took place, the young shoe thrower was taken away by the police. Dr Singh asked the police not to file any charges. The incident was condemned by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and was called an "unestablished way of protesting against democracy."[35]

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

A student threw a shoe at the director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, as he addressed a university in Istanbul, Turkey on October 1, 2009.[36] The shoe did not hit Strauss-Khan but landed on the stage. The student, Selçuk Özbek, from the left-wing newspaper BirGün, was taken away by security as he shouted "IMF get out!". A female protestor was also escorted from the hall,[37] while others shouted "Go away IMF, you're stealing money."[38]

Other notable incidents

  • October 2009, a shoe was hurled at Clifford D. May by a student named Muhammad Hussain who is also the class representative of his class at Karachi University I.R. Dept.
  • April 2009, a slipper was hurled at Lal Krishna Advani by a man named Pavas Agrawal who was a BJP worker.[39] Agrawal was arrested for interrogation.
  • April 2009, a slipper was hurled at Naveen Jindal by a school teacher.[40]
  • April 2009, a slipper was hurled at B. S. Yeddyurappa by a vagabond named Chandrashekar who was drunk at the time.[41]
  • April 2009 some shareholders in Fortis bank threw their shoes at executives in opposition to the decision to sell part of the bank to BNP Paribas.[42][43]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Shoes thrown at Bush on Iraq trip". Middle East (BBC News). 2008-12-14. Retrieved 2008-12-15.  
  2. ^ Arab culture: the insult of the shoe, The Telegraph, December 15, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Bush shoe-ing worst Arab insult, BBC, December 16, 2008.
  4. ^
  5. ^ The shoe heard round the world, Matthew Cassel, Arab-American, December 20, 2008; accessed December 21, 2008.
  6. ^ Dundes, Alan. "The Bodily Origin of Caste" in Two tales of crow and sparrow. page 63.
  7. ^ The Symbolism of Freemasonry by Albert G. Mackey (1882)
  8. ^ MYSTERIES OF CLEANLINESS From Revival of Religious Learnings by Imam Gazzali (r.a.) IHYA ULUM-ID-DIN DATE: 450 (A.H.) 1058 A.D.- 505 A.H. 1111 A.D. Translated by Fazlul Karim Published by Darul Ishaat Karachi Parkistan [1]
  9. ^ "I was very respectful. Then I made a terrible mistake: I was so tired, I crossed my legs and showed him the sole of my shoe. Saddam got up and left. I thought I was toast. "Is he coming back?" I asked. "He'll be back, but you must apologize for insulting an Arab with the supreme insult." I decided not to apologize — maybe he was playing a psychological game with me. He came back and I just continued making my point. His eyes got bigger and then his mouth started moving into a smile." [2]
  10. ^ "Raw Video: Iraqi Journalist Throws Shoe at Bush". Associated Press. 2008-12-14. Retrieved 2008-12-17.  
  11. ^ "Bush Iraqi shoe attack: Why didn't the Secret Service take a loafer for the president?". World News (Daily Mail). 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2008-12-17.  
  12. ^ Naughton, Philippe (2008-12-16). "White House spokeswoman Dana Perino shows off 'shoe-venir'". Times Online. Retrieved 2008-12-16.  
  13. ^ "Reporter detained after shoe-tossing incident". Conflict in Iraq. Associated Press (MSNBC). 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2008-12-17.  
  14. ^ Stone, Andrea (2008-12-14). "Bush ducks flying shoes flung by reporter". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-12-17.  
  15. ^ Johnson, Sasha (2008-12-16). "Bush on auto bailout, war in Iraq, shoe-throwing reporter". Politics (CNN). Retrieved 2008-12-17.  
  16. ^ (2008-12-16). "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Dana Perino". Press release. Retrieved 2008-12-17.  
  17. ^ [3]
  18. ^ [4]
  19. ^ [5]
  20. ^ a b c Ben Macintyre; Nico Hines (February 2, 2009). "Protester throws shoe at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao". UK News (United Kingdom: Times Online). Retrieved June 3, 2009.  
  21. ^ "Officials name suspect in Wen shoe case". Agence France-Presse. 2009-02-08. Retrieved 2009-02-09.  
  22. ^ BBC News UK (2 February 2009). "Shoe hurled as Chinese PM speaks".  
  23. ^ "Protester throws shoe at China's premier". Europe ( 05:49 GMT, February 3, 2009. Retrieved June 3, 2009.  
  24. ^ Reuters UK (9 February 2009). "China's Wen urges leniency for Cambridge shoe thrower".  
  25. ^ Daily Mail Reporter (2 June 2009). "Cambridge student who threw shoe at Chinese premier Wen Jiabao is cleared". Mail online. Retrieved 2009-06-02.  
  26. ^ BBC News UK (2 June 2009). "Shoe thrower cleared of offence".  
  27. ^ Hoff, Henning: Cambridge Shoe Thrower Is Cleared, Time Magazine
  28. ^ a b Robert Tait (15.58 GMT, 6 March, 2009). "Shoe reportedly thrown at Iranian president Ahmadinejad". Iran (The Guardian). Retrieved June 3, 2009.  
  29. ^ The Times of India
  30. ^
  31. ^ Scribe lobs shoe at Chidambaram
  32. ^ Shoe thrower let off without charges
  33. ^ Sikh bodies to give Rs. 2-lakh reward to shoe-thrower
  34. ^ Congress drops Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar
  35. ^ Shoe thrown at Prime Minister in Modi Land. NDTV. April 26, 2009.
  36. ^ Student Throws Shoe At IMF Chief In Istanbul Protest. The New York Times. October 1, 2009.
  37. ^ Protester throws shoe at IMF director in Istanbul. The Times of India. October 1, 2009.
  38. ^ Shoe thrower targets IMF chief in Istanbul. CNN. October 1, 2009.
  39. ^ Shoe hurled at Advani in MP. NDTV.
  40. ^ "How to shoe a neta away? Just aim and shoot". India. Retrieved June 3, 2009.  
  41. ^ Slipper thrown at Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa
  42. ^ Katherine Griffiths (7:08PM BST, 28 Apr, 2009). "Shareholders throw shoes at Fortis meeting". Telegraph (United Kingdom). Retrieved June 3, 2009.  
  43. ^ "Shoes thrown at Fortis chairman". BBC News (United Kingdom). 16:16 GMT, 28 April, 2009. Retrieved June 3, 2009.  


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