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Libyan Writer Dr. Mansour O. El-Kikhia
الكاتب الليبي الدكتور منصور عمر الكيخيا

Mansour O. El-Kikhia

Saturday, 20 December, 2008

There is nothing heroic about shoe throwing journalist

By: Dr. Mansour O. El-Kikhia

There is nothing heroic about shoe throwing journalist

San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted: 12/19/2008 12:00 CST

Last week's shoe attack by Muntadar al-Zeidi, an Iraqi reporter, on President Bush got me thinking about the contradictory nature of Middle Eastern politics, and I was not pleased with my conclusions.

Each community in the region has its own particular insulting gestures, but there are also common gestures involving footwear that are considered insulting to all Arabs. Assaulting anyone with shoes is considered insulting by any standard in Arab society. Also insulting is displaying shoe soles, as some are prone to do when they put their feet on a table, desk, chair, or sometimes even while sitting on the ground.

Usually, when entering an Arab or Muslim home, one is expected to take off footwear before entering carpeted or covered areas of the dwelling. Muslims in particular do not enter mosques or pray with their shoes on.

Unlike many across the globe, I found the attack on President Bush offensive — and neither heroic nor amusing. And, in spite of the fact that Mr. Bush's policies have been a disaster for Iraq on one level, they have, on another level, been a blessing. Iraqi democracy is one of those unintended consequences of the Bush blunder, and even though it came at a great cost, Iraqis are in a better position today than at any time in the past 700 years to chart their own destiny.

More than at any time in the past, I am convinced that Mr. Bush is now sincere in his desire to see Iraqi democracy established and functioning, since it is the only possible achievement his legacy can cling to. He cannot afford to see Kurdish or Shiite separatist movements or the Balkanization of Iraq, for that will ensure Kurdish or Arab genocide and open the doors to many actors to meddle in Iraqi affairs.

The adventure in Iraq also came at great social, human, financial and political costs to the U.S., and there is nothing to show for it except Iraqi democracy.

Americans have come to realize that their government has wronged the Iraqis by attacking a country that didn't threaten the U.S. But, that aside, America cannot afford to remain in Iraq indefinitely, and will leave sooner rather than later.

To their credit, the Arab regimes remained silent on the shoe attack. but their state-controlled media made an event of it. As expected, the only regime bucking the trend was in Libya. The Libyan statement came from Colonel Qadhafi's daughter, Aicha, who heads the Wa Atassimou Group, a supposedly “private” human rights organization that just happens to be funded by the Libyan regime, not the Libyan government, as if that makes a difference. The organization decided to give Mr. al-Zeidi the courage award “because what he did represents a victory for human rights across the world.”

I have little respect for anything uttered by the majority of Arab regimes on human rights, particularly the Qadhafi regime. If Ms. Qadhafi wants to give a courage award, she can give it posthumously to the human rights advocate Mansour Kikhia, my cousin, who was abducted and reportedly murdered on her father's orders, or to the many imprisoned courageous Libyans demanding little freedom and relief from her father's despotic rule. God knows he deserves it, but they didn't throw any shoes at him. Human rights advocates receive death sentences or many years in prison for peacefully demonstrating against oppression.

I wonder what will be the fate of any Arab throwing a pair of shoes at an Arab leader. In Libya, for example, the punishment for verbally attacking Mr. Qadhafi is death. So what will be the punishment for shoe throwing? A mincing machine?

I have little respect for dictators or aggressors, and I believe they have been the cause of much suffering and hurt the world over, but I still believe that the journalist needs to be tried for his attack on another individual, and if found guilty, he must be punished. We can claim the right to civility and civilization only when we enforce the rules of a fair and impartial legal code on precisely those illegal acts that make us feel good.

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