As Sunni and Shi’ite preachers across Iraq gave their Friday sermons today, the aftermath of Sunday’s Bush-Maliki press conference and the arrest of journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi took center stage. After throwing his shoes at President Bush, Zeidi was beaten and arrested, and is facing years of prison time. But he’s also become a hero of almost mythical proportions in the nation, and comments from religious leaders of both sects reflected that reality.
Mohammed al-Shami, the preacher at Baghdad’s main Shi’ite mosque, demanded Zeidi’s release, saying his congregation holds the Iraqi government responsible for his safety, his life, his health, and psychological condition.
At the city’s main Sunni mosque, Uthman Raheem demanded to know “why you have detained a person who made such a heroic and fair act? A stand that all of us should have taken a long time ago.”Another Sunni preacher in Fallujah, where a pro-Zeidi protest turned violent after US troops fired on students, called Zeidi a courageous man and said he honored all Iraqis with his action.
Attention was not limited to Iraq, however. Leading Friday prayers in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati praised Zeidi, admonishing worshippers to not overlook what he termed “the shoe intifada in Iraq.” Jannati said the shoes deserve a place in an Iraqi museum.
Unfortunately for the museums, the shoes were reported destroyed by security forces in the wake of the incident.