Dec. 15, 2008
CTV.ca News Staff
In Iraq, Mundthar al-Zeidi is a certified hero and all he had to do was throw his shoes.
On Sunday, the Arab journalist launched both his shoes at U.S. President George Bush during a press conference in Baghdad.
The first shoe nearly pinged Bush in the head but he managed to duck just in time. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tried to block the second shoe as it flew directly over Bush's head.
"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he tossed his shoes at Bush. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
Khaled Mouammar, National President of Canadian Arab Federation, said throwing a shoe at someone is the "most degrading" insult you could give in the Arab world.
Mouammar compared it to the pie in the face then-prime minister Jean Chretien received back in 2000.
"If you're under occupation you resist in any way you can," Mouammar told CTV.ca from Toronto.
"I'm sure he wasn't allowed to bring in anything else but his shoes so that's the only thing he could use against Bush."
On Monday, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in protest, demanding that the reporter be released from custody.
In Baghdad's Sadr City, protesters burned U.S. flags and called for al-Zeidi to be released. In Najaf, a Shiite holy city, an American patrol was pelted with shoes by protesters.
"He was actually representing the feelings of the true Iraqi people," Mouammar said.
He said it was a fitting way to mark Bush's legacy in Iraq.
"This is his farewell sendoff, given by an Arab, which was the most fitting way to do it -- an Arab who was a victim from his policies."
Al-Zeidi, reportedly in his late 20s, worked for Al-Baghdadia, a TV station. In 2007, he was kidnapped by Shiite militias and released three days later.
Meanwhile, in Iraq and across the Middle East, al-Zeidi is being hailed as a hero.
Newspapers printed the images on the front-page Monday and one text message circulating throughout Saudi Arabia joked that "Iraq considers Sunday as the international day for shoes."
Even in Canada, some Arabs celebrated after watching the video.
Mouammar said he had a party of about 40 people at his house Sunday when a friend received a phone call from Egypt about the Bush incident.
"We gathered around the computer and we repeatedly watched that thing and we were so proud and happy all of us," Mouammar said.
"He had excellent aim actually. From that distance, in both instances, he would have hit him if he hadn't ducked on the first one and if he wasn't protected by the prime minister on the second one."
*With files from The Associated Press