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Shoo Haida? The Shoe Saga Snowball Rolls On

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The affair continues to reverberate in the Arab world with comedians, the media and average citizens capitalizing on Iraqi journalist Muntadhar Al Zaidi's shoe-tossing episode at President George W. Bush in Baghdad with little end in sight.

Just before flying from Beirut to Dubai this week, I was flooded with SMSs from a friend in Cairo who wanted to share the latest jokes on the affair. Egyptians are noted for their sense of humor and have had a field day with the story.

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Egyptians SMS shoe jokes (Masrawi)

According to one poke at Damascus, which Cairo and Washington view as a troublemaker in the Middle East, the U.S. accused Syria of being behind the shoe attack on President Bush citing phone taps that intercepted the word "shoo?" ("what?" in colloquial Syrian Arabic) being mentioned repeatedly.

Bush then expelled the Syrian ambassador to the U.S. when he asked: "Shoo haida?" (what's that? in Arabic).

Bush declared European shoe sizes over 40 (10 in the U.S.) to be weapons of mass destruction. It is now a top priority of the U.S. agenda to disarm all Arab men of their shoes.

A new U.S. Homeland Security directive requires one's shoe size to be added to the American visa application. Size 10 will no longer be issued a visa to the U.S.

After Bush was attacked by a shoe, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak decreed that all news conferences would henceforth be held in Al Azhar mosque (where entrants have to take off their shoes).

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki turned to Bush, declaring victory of their American-Iraqi policies, saying in a play on the word "intasarna (we won): "Enta sarma, enta sarma (you're a shoe, you're a shoe)."

A street shoeshine man in downtown Cairo said he feared the U.S. would force all Arabs to walk barefoot to avoid a repetition of the incident, and causing him to declare Chapter 11.

Popular Egyptian singer Shaaban Abdel Rahim (Sha'abolla) chimed in with new Arabic rhyming couplets: "There's no use for you, Bush, you so-and-so; you deserve a thousand shoes for what you did to us, so go."

Lebanese activist composer/singer Marcel Khalifeh hailed Zaidi as this "beautiful fighter" and thanked him for his shoe in the face of "that despot Bush."

There was more on the plane to Dubai with a Palestinian passenger telling me he wished the Iraqi journalist hadn't missed the mark.

A report in Gulf News the day after I arrived said a Saudi man offered $10 million to buy Zaidi's famous shoes.

The paper's online readers' comments included one from an American woman in Switzerland who described the 29-year-old Zaidi as a hero, adding that President Bush would be "seeing many more shoes after his reign is over in Washington."

But another reader in Dubai described the shoe hurl as a barbaric act. "There's always a decent way to protest. These are not the proper ethics of a journalist."

Daoud Al Shiryan, a famous Saudi columnist, wrote in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat that the Iraqi's farewell to Bush was a shoe "intifada" (uprising).

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Al Hayat cartoon with a shoe "V" victory sign

A cartoon in the same paper depicted a victory sign flashed by two fingers covered with a pair of shoes.

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An-Nahar's sendoff cartoon

In Lebanon, An-Nahar cartoonist Pierre Sadek showed the soles of a pair of shoes with the words "The End" and a caption reading: "Bush bids farewell to Iraq, the war hasn't ended, and a journalist hurls his shoe at him."

A former Lebanese member of parliament, commenting on Sadek's cartoon, said he wished the shoe toss would infect other Arabs to help keep their politicians in line.

Another Lebanese cartoonist, Stavro Jabra, drew journalists about to enter a press briefing with a voice booming from inside the room: "Watch out, folks, whoever wants to enter the news conference must be barefoot."

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Stavro's press briefing directive on being barefoot

A prankster superimposed Bush's head on an old shoe with a caption reading: "What counts is, will Barney (the dog) recognize me? The problem is he has a strong sense of smell."

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Will Barney recognize Bush?

The Internet has been abuzz with comments, video replays of the shoe toss on countless websites and cyber games urging browsers to try their hands at hitting Bush.

Iraqi singer Shada Hassoon, who lives in exile and came to fame after winning the Arab equivalent of "American Idol," jumped into the fray with her online forum urging browsers to contribute comments.

News media reported that Zaidi had been offered a job at Lebanon's New TV channel, which also volunteered to cover his legal expenses. If Zaidi accepts the offer, the station will retroactively pay his salary from the time he tossed his shoes at Bush.

Meanwhile, the famous shoes were destroyed after being examined by Iraqi and American security forces, Agence France-Presse reported.