Friday, March 20, 2009

pretty harsh for a couple of shoes

Originally published the Daily Vidette. There was an issue with how I saved (or forgot to save) the edited version so it was published with an unfinished sentence (copy editors, you're doing a great job keep it up). Anyway...

By now, most people have probably heard of Muntadar al-Zaidi. Even if they don't know him by name they probably have heard some account or another of this event:

"This is your farewell kiss, you dog! This is for the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," yelled al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, as he hurled his right and left shoes at former United States President, George W. Bush.

Muntadar Al-Zaidi will go down in history as the shoe thrower. He has become somewhat of a folk hero in Iraq, where the current American military occupation is far from a shoe's--or, stone's throw away from being considered anywhere close to popular.

An ABC News/BBC/NHK poll recently released found 62 percent of Iraqis consider al-Zaidi a hero. Only 24 percent of the Iraqis polled consider his actions to have been criminal. Further proving the American military occupation is unpopular (we all knew that) among Iraqi civilians. Since Al-Zaidi is considered a hero and the most hated by most Iraqis shows he really was acting on behalf of the citizens like he said.

On Friday, Al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years in prison by the Iraqi court. He was found guilty of assaulting a foreign head of state. Though he could have been given up to fifteen years for this offense, even three years is a bit excessive.

After all, it was just a couple of shoes, not a rocket, a bullet or any other of a wide variety of deadly weapons. Those shoes were probably made of leather and maybe even had some orthopedic properties. They were not actual weapons, not to mention that he did not even successfully "assault" the foreign head of state. G.W. was not harmed during what al-Zaidi referred to as "a natural response to the occupation."

His flying shoes were an act of protest to the American occupation in Iraq. And though al-Zaidi's actions were certainly not professional, or nice, for that matter, no one deserves three years in prison for the act of throwing a couple of shoes.

Al-Zaidi has apparently inspired others to use their shoes as projectiles of dissent to hurl at other world leaders as well. Last month, Martin Jahnke, a graduate student at Cambridge University in England, threw his shoe at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao while he gave a speech at the University.

Jahnke has been charged with committing a public order offense. This charge carries a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment and 5,000 British Pounds ($7,400).

This is a much more reasonable charge and penalty than what al-Zaidi received. The only difference between these two acts were the quantity of shoes thrown and the types of shoes.

Well, there is one more difference between these two shoe-throwing cases. And perhaps it is the most important of them all. These "crimes" were committed in two entirely different countries.

"This is an American court, you sons of dogs," these words were screamed by Muntadar al-Zaidi's brother when he was given his three year sentence. Maybe there is more truth in this statement than many Americans would like to believe. American troops did help install a new government in Iraq, after all.

China's ambassador to Britain has urged the courts to go easy on the German shoe thrower. The Iraqi courts should follow suit.


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