December 15th, 2008
12:27 PM ET

The Shoe Reaction in the Arab World

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/15/art.shoe.arab.jpg caption="An Iraqi shouts as he holds up a slipper and a sign as they protest against yesterday's visit by US President George W. Bush and the arrest of an Iraqi journalist in Sadr City."]

Octavia Nasr
CNN Arab Affairs Editor

He threw his shoes at President George W. Bush at the end of the opening statements of a joint press conference in which Mr. Bush bid farewell to Iraq and sealed the security agreement known as SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement). Although, many elevated the shoe-thrower to the level of “national hero,” some put him in the wrong and called what he did “shameful.”

His name is Munthadar al-Zaidi, a reporter for a new Iraqi station called Al-Baghdadiya (The Baghdadi). The station was founded in 2005 and al-Zaidi has worked there since its inception. On its website, Al-Baghdadiya explains that “it is an independent station that broadcasts out of Cairo with offices in Baghdad and Cairo. It is owned by Iraqi businessman and engineer Aoun Hussein Tashlook and has no affiliations to any persons or groups.”

At the end of the press conference, President Bush shook hands with his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki, then turned around and said in Arabic as he is looking towards the audience, “Shukran Jazeelan” meaning “Thank you very much.”

At this very moment, al-Zaidi stood up held his shoe up, aimed and shot it towards President Bush. The president ducked and avoided the fast flying shoe. Then al-Zaidi threw the second shoe and shouted, “This is a farewell you dog.” as he was pinned down by security personnel present in the room.

The image of President Bush ducking and President Maliki’s hand trying to protect him from the second flying shoe is plastered on the front pages of every major Arabic newspaper with a variety of captions. Ranging from, “A twin-shoe attack almost hits President Bush in the face. This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people you dog” In Lebanon’s Assafir newspaper, to a headline in the Saudi-owned, London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that reads, “Iraqi reporter throws a pair of shoes at Bush and Maliki. Bush bids farewell to Baghdad stressing that what happened is important for Iraqis to get a taste of freedom.”

The Opinion Editorial that got the most reader reaction came from the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, who’s Editor-in-Chief, Abdel Bari Attwan, is known for his anti-Bush sentiments. Attwan titled his piece, “An appropriate farewell for a war criminal.” The article generated hundreds of replies from readers filling 35 printed pages, most of them agreeing with the premise of the article. A few voices of contempt at what al-Zaidi did found their way to the reaction board. One of them saying that, “If this reporter is hung like Saddam Hussein, it would be less shameful to him than the shame that his act will bring him from his family, friends and society.” Another post questioned whether this same reporter “would’ve even dared to criticize Saddam Hussein, let alone throw a shoe at him.”

Al-Zaidi’s employer, Al-Baghdadiya, hosted a live broadcast taking viewers’ calls in while showing al-Zaidi’s reports in a split screen. The show received a large number of calls from Iraqis living outside Iraq and from many viewers from across the Arab world. While most callers supported al-Zaidi and called him a “hero,” others expressed disagreement and called his act “inappropriate.”

The Iraqi National Media Center which reports to the office of the Prime Minister issued a statement calling al-Zaidi’s act “savage shameful assault on the US President that has no relationship to the profession of journalism.” In the same statement, the group demanded a public apology from Al-Baghdadiya because the statement said, “We do condemn that shameful act, and ask his channel to apologize officially, because his act stained media and Iraqi journalists badly, as well to the place of the conference, this act was condemned by his colleagues available there. We ask all decent media sides to ask employees representing them not to misuse facilitate given to media personalities.The act harmed the reputation of Iraqi journalists.”

Meanwhile, a website in support of al-Zaidi was established along with a FaceBook page that already drew more than a thousand “fans” as the page describe them.

Filed under: Iraq • Islam • Octavia Nasr
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Don, WA

    The best "Shoe Reaction" to this incident was from our president.

    December 15, 2008 at 8:16 pm |
  2. Melissa, Los Angeles

    Heck I'd through a shoe at Bush for getting us into the middle east mess. Why has he not found bin Laden like he intended to?

    December 15, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  3. lampe

    We can only hope Obama makes all the right decisions,or it will be him they throw shoes at next.

    December 15, 2008 at 7:59 pm |
  4. Susan Miller

    I am appalled at the reporters who have laughed on camera about the shoe throwing incident. Like him or not, that is our president, and that could have been something worse than a shoe. Not so funny.

    December 15, 2008 at 7:49 pm |
  5. chucky

    Did bush mention in he's Resume that he was member of * dodgeball team
    how he's dodging shoes

    December 15, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  6. patricia in California

    Alas! President Bush finally discovers those Weapons of Mass Destruction!

    December 15, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  7. Julie G.

    I agree kind of hard to appreciate a news reporter as "unbiased" when they throw a shoe...

    December 15, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  8. Sheikh Idrees

    On the shoe issue, I remember, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Father of Benazir Bhutto) invited Foreign Ambassadors to his native town of Larkana in Sind province of Pakistan. People showed shoes to Bhutto, So when ambassadors asked him why people are showing shoes. He replied that they are saying shoes are getting very expensive, so they want me to do something about the leather prices.

    December 15, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  9. Ahmad Fahad

    Interesting coverage of the incident, yet surprisingly enough Octavia, you've overlooked the timing of the visit which coincides with both the memory of Saddam Husseins capture 'and' two weeks short of his execution.
    Two very emotional dates for Iraqis, that might add some salt to your article, and some insight to the state of mind of Muntadhar.
    I just hope he gets out of jail ASAP to enjoy his legacy as the man who went down in history for humiliating Bush the Iraqi way.

    December 15, 2008 at 4:28 pm |
  10. Teresa

    I wonder how long this guy would have lived if he had thrown his shoes at Saddam Hussein?

    December 15, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  11. Miriam

    One shoe for every term in office!! He should have tried stilletos

    December 15, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  12. Jeanette

    It's hard to understand how they can be so mad at bush for getting them out of the depressive way they were treated by hussein, however, we need to understand that they have lost hundreds of thousands of lives in their country. For all we know this man could have lost many friends or family to the war.

    December 15, 2008 at 2:30 pm |
  13. Carol B., Virginia

    This idiot could have held up a protest sign. His message would have been seen and he could have been carted off as a "hero." Where's Ghandi when you need him? Oh yeah, dead. So much for peaceful protests.

    December 15, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  14. Charlotte D

    I want to say too bad Bush ducked and the shoe missed, but this is our President we are talking about here. There is still a shred of dignity connected with the office I would hope. The journalist is lucky he didn't throw his shoe at President Andrew Jackson. Old Hickory would have taken off his shoe and thrashed him.

    To Bush's credit he handled the incident with humor and I hope this is the end of it. I do not want to have to board a plane bare footed from now on because passengers might do the same thing and throw shoes at the flight attendants. Let's use reason for a change.

    December 15, 2008 at 2:21 pm |
  15. Maria

    Marhaba Octavia,
    In the Arab world expect the unexpected. Al-Ziadi act is unprofessional by all measures, no matter what was his piece of mind, he can always express his disagreement but in professional way. I am not familiar with throwing egg, tomato, or shoes culture, but I think it is immature act of expression. I crossed a comment in the Arab media that “Al-Zaidi family announced they are proud of their son act and posted his photos along with Che Guevara photos”; that represents there are no true Arab hero for at least group of Iraqi!!Probably the flying shoes clip will win the shot of the year 2008 in the Arab world. I will not surprised if the shoes will be auctioned, but it might worth more than president-elect Obama senate seat, hard luck Blago.
    Have a lovely day.

    December 15, 2008 at 2:20 pm |
  16. Bev C.

    If Saddam had been at the podium, this guy wouldn't have dared throw any shoes, if so, he'd be dead right now. I don't like Bush, never did, did not vote for him either time. I did not like the fact we invaded Iraq. But this is too much. Our military got rid of a tyrant and alot of these people could care less. What a way to say thanks. Good thing it wasn't a female journalist with high heels.

    December 15, 2008 at 1:43 pm |
  17. JC- Los Angeles

    Bush has always been a real heel.

    December 15, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  18. Chi Town

    Glad to see the struggle for freedom in Iraq is paying off...
    Wonder why he never threw a shoe at Saddam... oh yea... I think I can imagine why...

    Congrats to Iraq... this is a huge sign of freedom... oh... and you are welcome!

    December 15, 2008 at 1:37 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    So if the Iraqis are up in arms about the shoe incident will the reporter be fired from his job? I hope they gave him his shoes back because if he gets fired he'll need that shoe leather to beat the streets looking for another job. Lifting a finger would have been easier – no shoes to retrieve, nobody tackling him, no outcry about the shame he brought on the press and the Arab world.....and Bush would have understood that message.

    December 15, 2008 at 1:36 pm |
  20. Lee Strother

    No doubt some comedians and anti-Bush people will have a field day with the definition of a "lame duck" President.

    December 15, 2008 at 1:35 pm |
  21. Pamela Greene Guin, Alabama

    This, asI understand is thier version of cursing and flipping someone off, and though I usually feel this way over Bush, I would not do these sort of things publically. That is the bad side of this, he should not have done it in front of camera's!

    December 15, 2008 at 1:34 pm |
  22. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    "W" has reeked havoc on the middle east as well as the United States and the whole darn world!
    They throw shoes, we lift a finger. I understand.

    December 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm |
  23. Lili Rehak

    I was hit in the head with a shoe by accident when I was 14. I was knocked out, had a concussion and 5 stitches in my forehead and ended up with 2 black eyes, and the shoe was not travelling anywhere as fast as this shoe thrower lobbed it. Looks like he had been practicing and was throwing like a professional baseball player. I am proud that President Bush dodged both shoes like a pro and remained calm and collected. I am shocked that the Secret Service were totally asleep at the switch. The shoe could have seriously injured the president. This was a premediated attack, no doubt, and could have ended up alot worse for the president.

    December 15, 2008 at 1:07 pm |
  24. Cindy

    While I did think that throwing the shoes at Bush was in bad taste I do think that it was extremely funny seeing him ducking and diving and the look on his face.

    But in all seriousness a lot of Arabs hate Bush and always will no matter what. In fact they hate the U.S. no matter what we do. So of course they are going to hail this man as a "hero". If one of their leaders were here and done that way there would be a world wide outcry!

    But with Iraq's freedom they also got freedom of the press. Just didn't think they'd take it that far! LOL


    December 15, 2008 at 1:00 pm |
  25. Larry

    When you throw your shoe at the potus then you are throwing it at all americans. If the same thing happens to obama, how do we react?

    December 15, 2008 at 12:47 pm |
  26. Billy

    I understand that not everyone agrees with president Bush, in fact I disagree with most of his decisions and policies as well. But, when an individual responsible for reporting UNBIASED news throws a shoe at president Bush, it not only ruins his credibility as a reporter but shames his family, profession and disgraces his country. I don't understand how the Iraqi people see this as acceptable. I now have a lesser opinion of them than Bush now.

    December 15, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  27. KIM

    This is exactly why we are fighting a war there, to let the Iraqi people speak their minds and publicly demonstrate their feelings, good or bad. Good for him. No one got hurt. Move on.

    December 15, 2008 at 12:40 pm |