PJ Media

The Bush Shoe-Tosser: Life Imitates Brian

“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.


Adding to the comic relief was the reaction of the Gaddafi family in Libya, who declared that al-Zaidi would be honored for his bravery. “Wa Atassimou group has taken the decision to give Muntazer al-Zaidi the courage award … because what he did represents a victory for human rights across the world,” the charity group, headed by Gaddafi’s daughter Aicha, said in a statement. A victory for human rights would be Libya fessing up to what happened to journalist Abdullah Ali Al-Sanussi Al-Darrat, who disappeared into a Libyan prison in 1973 (without, of course, trial or sentence) and unfortunately holds the Reporters Without Borders record for the longest time behind bars. A dissenter who would attempt the “courageous” act of chucking a shoe at Moammar Gaddafi would similarly disappear without any “courage award.”

But when it comes to recognizing human rights violations, such as using chemical weapons on the Kurds at Halabja or letting Uday Hussein dream up creative torture methods for opponents of his papa’s regime, we find another mirror in Brian.

Remember the Judean People’s Front, er, People’s Front of Judea, who are going to save the world from the Romans via proclamations and focus groups? As Brian hangs on a cross, the PFJ arrives not to swing into action and rescue him, but, as John Cleese’s character Reg notes, “Well, I think I should point out first, Brian, that in all fairness we are not in fact the rescue committee; however, I have been asked to read the following prepared statement on behalf of the movement. We, the People’s Front of Judea (brackets, officials, end brackets) do hereby convey our sincere fraternal and sisterly greetings to you, Brian, on this, the occasion of your martyrdom. Your death will stand as a landmark in the continuing struggle to liberate the parentland from the hands of the Roman imperialist aggressors excluding those concerned with drainage, medicine, roads, housing, education, viniculture, and any other Romans contributing to the welfare of Jews of both sexes, and hermaphrodites. Signed on behalf of the PFJ etc.”

It’s so … United Nations.