11 September 2009

A harem for the shoe-thrower?

"This is your farewell kiss, you dog. This is for the widows and orphans of Iraq." With those immortal words, Muntazer al-Zaidi hurled his shoes at then-president George W. Bush and claimed his place in history. And quite a place it is. Al-Zaidi, who will be released from prison on Monday, is a hero to millions of Arabs who believe he stood up for them with the courage their leaders lack.

On his release he has been promised a new house, cars, money and the hands of many lovely maidens in marriage. Ahmed Jouda, a Palestinian farmer who convinced his relatives to contribute tens of thousands of dollars to al-Zaidi's defense, said, "We are willing to present him with a bride loaded with gold." He added, "We are people who have tasted the bitterness, sorrow and agony of occupation, too. What he did, he did for all the Arabs, not just the Iraqis."

Al-Zaidi's fame in the Middle East not only illustrates Arab animosity toward the United States but also the need for leaders that truly represent the sensibilities of the Arab street. At least, for the moment anyway, they have the shoe-thrower.

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