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The Bush Shoe-Tosser: Life Imitates Brian

Footwear-chucking Iraqi correspondent Muntader al-Zaidi has a lot in common with a famous Monty Python character.

by
Bridget Johnson

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December 23, 2008 - 12:12 am
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“He’s not the messiah; he’s a very naughty boy!”

OK, so Monty Python’s classic Life of Brian, about the confusion caused when a Jewish guy is born the next stable over from Jesus (“What is myrrh, anyway?”), has traditionally been viewed as poking fun at Christianity.

But with Muntadhar al-Zaidi, our shoe-chucking correspondent in Iraq, the film takes on crystal-clear shades of today’s Arab world. Or is it the other way around?

Like Brian Cohen’s mum screams to the adoring crowds outside the window, waiting for guidance and miracles from her son, al-Zaidi is not the “noble freedom fighter” come to save the Mideast from Western oppression — he’s a very naughty boy. He committed assault — in a rather stupid way, at that — while simultaneously staining his country’s reputation. But, of course, he’s reaped adulation in the process and brought the followers out of the woodwork.

When Brian tries to flee his growing flock, he stumbles and loses a sandal in the process. The followers take this as a message to not be constrained by footwear, but to bare their soles: “The shoe is the sign. Let us follow his example. … Let us, like him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is his sign, that all who follow him shall do likewise!” The point of that scene, of course, is a commentary on the loony things followers of everymen will do without question, from drinking the Kool-Aid in Guyana to wedding a stranger Polaroid-picked by Sun Myung Moon in a stadium. The sneaker-wielding masses protesting across the Arab world in the wake of al-Zaidi unleashing his size-10 weapons of mass disruption, venerating the journalist with the anger-management problem, show just how true that is.

Continuing the farce, a Saudi businessman offered $10 million for just one — oh, so Brian — of the shoes chucked at President Bush. Hasan Muhammad Makhafa said the shoe was “a symbol of freedom not just footwear. … They represent a victory for those who have disgraced the Arabs by occupying their lands and killing innocent people. For me, one of those shoes has more value than my lands and property. I want to bequest it to my children.” I’m sure they’d love a fetid loafer instead of the $10 million.

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