When Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi hurled his shoes in quick succession at the President of the United States he likely understood he was doing something newsworthy. He may have even appreciated the symbolism, less than one month after a crowd in Baghdad pelted an effigy of President Bush with shoes, of trying his hand at the real McCoy (who it turns out is much more skilled at dodging shoes than anyone could have imagined). Still, it is unlikely he could have imagined the way in which this relatively simple incident has caught on.
Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Sadr City, lauding Zeidi as a “hero” and demanding his release from government custody. The crowd was reportedly chanting “Bush, Bush, listen well: Two shoes on your head.” Smaller rallies were apparently also held in Basra and Najaf. His employer, Egypt-based al-Baghdadiya television, also called for his release, saying to do otherwise would “be considered the acts of a dictatorial regime.”
But the sensation doesn’t stop at the Iraqi border. Across the Arab world, newspapers ran front-page photos of Bush ducking out of the way of Zeidi’s shoes, and opponents of the US invasion hail his actions as a deeply meaningful protest.
What the future holds for Zeidi, who made news last year after briefly being taken hostage by militants, is unclear. His shoes have been confiscated as evidence, while the journalist is being interrogated to determine whether or not he acted alone. In a nation where US forces routinely detain journalists without charges, Zeidi had already been twice arrested by the US, though seemingly never charged with anything. His ability to emerge unscathed this time is likely a product of popular opinion, which for the moment seems strongly on his side.
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