Did Al-Zeidi think only of Bush ?
Reem Al-Faisal I Arab News
No matter how many times the scene is played on TV channels or Internet sites, one simply can’t get enough of it. Every time I see Muntadar Al-Zeidi throw the pair of shoes at US President George W. Bush, I feel I need to pinch myself so as to make sure I’m not hallucinating, but then I realize it really happened. An Arab journalist truly took his shoes off and threw them at the tyrant who was the cause of the death and misery of millions of Muslims. This man who dragged his nation into a mindless war and brought down on them the scorn and hatred for generations to come.
The most amazing thing to me is that there is still anyone left in the Arab world who has it in him to stand alone and defy tyranny in any one of its forms and I think that is what made Al-Zeidi’s actions produce such violent reactions in the Arab and Muslim world. His act spelled not only the bravery of individual action — for no one can deny his bravery — but it touched the much deeper wound which is the utter insignificance of the Arab states and the people they represent. We as a region have become invisible on the geopolitical map. If at all we are seen, it is as mere pawns in the hands of Western imperial powers and their desired dominance of other rising powers such as Russia or China.
Al-Zeidi didn’t just throw the shoe at Bush but in a symbolic gesture he was throwing it at us, at our own failures and cravenness. He threw it most of all at those who have made us what we are today — an inconsequential nation worth mentioning only for its shocking violence. We can only make headlines by our failures, defeats and deaths. Al-Zeidi’s shoe went out as a scream of protest at the state at which we find ourselves — a people with no voice and no power.
If there is a gush of enthusiasm in the long-suffering Arab street for Al-Zeidi’s shoe, it is because in Bush they see not only the man who destroyed Iraq but also a generic tyrant which could be any Arab leader and the minions that serve them. They would have wished it to be directed at those who stripped us of all the means of strength and power leaving us pickings for the predator nations that divide us into colonies as in the case of Iraq or protectorates. We are left with no possibility to defend ourselves or ability to demand our rights either within our own countries or in international forums such as the UN that has become just another tool in the hands of imperial powers. After all who sits in the Security Council except those who have bigger guns?
So as much as it makes me happy and as proud as I’m of the few Arabs who still have it in them to stand up and say to the mighty, “No, I will not surrender,” it also makes my heart break that they are very few in number. Where are all the Arab armies to defend us? Where are all the tanks, the missiles, the plans, and the entire arsenal that we have wasted our national wealth to acquire? Why aren’t our armies out there on the front fighting to protect us, to liberate us to save the starving and defend the weak? Why should we wait for a lone warrior to lob a grenade? Why should a journalist abandon his greatest weapon, the pen, and choose to express our misery with such a dramatic act? How many of us should die and suffer for the Arab nation to wake up and take its destiny in its own hands?
Al-Zeidi maybe one of the bravest men on this globe because not only did he defy and humiliate the emperor but also he knew very well what to expect at the hands of those who created Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and all the other secret prisons in every dark corner of the earth.
It is time that Arabs stopped to wait for those lone heroes who appear here and there, throwing them like sacrificial offering to the powerful. We have to take our own destiny in our hands and throw the proverbial shoe at all the tyrannies in our region, great and small.
Finally, on the matter of the cultural significance of throwing a shoe at someone in the Arab world. It has been said again and again that when one throws a shoe at some one in the Arab world, it has terrible meaning. I would like to ask what it would mean in other cultures. Let us assume an English journalist throws a shoe at the German chancellor. Would Angela Merkel take it to mean anything other than an insult? I think that throwing a shoe at some one’s face needs no translation.
— Reem Al Faisal is a Saudi photographer. She is based in Jeddah
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