"Ow!” as Austin Powers famously said to the assassin Random Task. “That really hurt! I'm going to have a lump there! You idiot. Honestly! Who throws a shoe?”
Muntazer al-Zaidi throws a shoe. Or rather, he threw two. Both were aimed at the head of George W. Bush, as he gave a press conference in Baghdad this weekend. “This is a farewell kiss, you dog,” the Iraqi TV journalist shouted. “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”
It was a powerful sentiment, rendered strangely ridiculous. Because he threw a shoe. Who throws a shoe?
Arabs do. In fact, in the global scheme of things, we in the West (you, me, George Bush, Austin Powers) are somewhat in the minority in not having a problem with feet at all. In much of South East Asia, it's considered rude to cross your legs while sitting down, for precisely this reason. In the north Indian town of Dharamsala, my friend Hamish was once nearly lynched by a mob of pacifist Buddhists for accidentally pointing the soles of his feet at the Dalai Lama. True story.
Zaidi should probably consider himself lucky that George Bush didn't just pick up the missiles and say: “Excuse me sir, you seem to have dropped your shoes.” Effective rudeness requires research. If you are going to insult somebody from another culture, it really pays to know what you are doing.