In What Culture is Having a Shoe Thrown At You a Sign of Respect?

Couldn’t have happened to a less-nice guy but it seems someone through a shoe at Sudanese dictator Omer Hassan Al-Bashir:

Shoe hurling at an individual is a grave insult and a sign of contempt in Arab culture and for Bashir who is running for reelection in April, this unpleasant scene runs contrary to an image portrayed made by Sudanese officials and state media of a president that enjoys overwhelming support among the people.

Bashir is a target of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued almost a year ago accusing him of masterminding mass killings in Sudan’s Western region of Darfur. Observers say that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) sees the upcoming elections as a means to legitimize the rule of Bashir who came to power through a coup in 1989.

My continuing question about this shoe-throwing business is in what culture, exactly, is it not the case that throwing a shoe at a guy giving a speech is a sign of contempt? I recall going as far back as when shoes were thrown at Iyad Allawi media types calmly explaining that this is an insult “in Arab culture.” But is the message really so unclear that we needed to break out our handy-dandy Arab cultural translation manual for? I think one thing that makes the shoe-toss such an effective gesture of protest against figures in the global news is that the message is loud, clear, and unambiguous to an audience from any culture. You’re talking to an audience, I’m in the audience throwing a shoe at you — it’s disrespectful.