Is the Shoe Insult a Muslim Thing, an Arab Thing, Both, or Neither?

Last weekend's incident has me thinking about the origins of the insult.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country.

Last weekend's shoe-throwing incident with President Bush in Iraq got me thinking: Is this a Muslim thing, an Arab thing, both, or neither? The answer is somewhat convoluted, but I hash it out in a piece for usnews.com today. Here's a taste:

Is the so-called shoe insult an Arab custom, a Muslim one, neither, or both?

The question has surfaced as news organizations struggle to make sense of the shoe-hurling Iraqi journalist whom President Bush encountered at a Baghdad press conference over the weekend.

Many of the media's explanations have saddled the episode with cultural and religious meaning, noting that Muslims consider shoes to be ritually unclean and remove them before entering mosques. But Middle East scholars say shoe abuse appears to lack distinctly Muslim or Arabic origins and that some widely disseminated interpretations of the weekend run-in probably go too far.

"It's one of those cases where we're trying to make it a lot more alien and bizarre than it actually is," says Jamal Elias, a University of Pennsylvania religious studies professor who specializes in Islam. "The journalist was disgusted with something Bush was saying, and he acted out. I can't imagine if you go to a press conference with George W. Bush they let you carry too much with you, so he took off the one thing he could hurl—his shoe."

Read the rest here.