Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Freedom to throw shoes?

There has been much comment over the incident when an irate Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at George W Bush. A news item on the BBC discusses the significance in Islam of the "insult" of throwing or threatening to throw shoes, or even just expose the soles to someone. (The issue here is not what George W Bush has or has not done for the Iraqi people. I certainly, for one, am looking with relief to the end of his harmful (to the world in general) regime in the USA).

However, regardless of what is believed in the Islamic world is this an insult or rather just an insult? The archaic meaning of insult is an attack or assault and this certainly qualifies, sadly and for sure some Muslims certainly are still living in archaic times. However today it is only acceptable to insult with words, that is protected by freedom of speech. This journalist's act was not one of freedom of speech and could have had dire consequences. After all not so long ago a Muslim was caught who had a bomb in his shoes. How would anyone have known there was not a bomb in this journalist's shoes? The situation that occurred could easily have been far more serious, with security personnel responding to a clear and present threat to the President of the U.S.A and possibly injuring innocent others as a result as well as the guilty journalist. Luckily that did not happen. Yes and one can comment on the repercussions on this journalist to what might have happened under Saddam Hussein's regime and this incident has ironically but arguably turned into a P.R. victory for the U.S.A.

Still, throwing shoes at someone - however important or not - is not just an insult, it is an assault and is not protected under freedom of speech. Whilst I personally found the incident amusing and was on the side of the journalist in terms of what he was trying to communicate, I cannot condone his actions, it is not an action to be praised. It is to be condemned and those who support and thereby encourage similar actions in the future are to be condemned too. It is one thing to insult with words, throwing shoes at someone is an assault, not an insult, it is an act of violence and any who support it - Muslim or not - are encouraging violent responses to words rather than using words to combat words.

P.S. A couple of great resources I did find as a result of pondering this question were Insult-o-matic and InsultFinder . Enjoy!