Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was greeting supporters when screaming assailants threw shoes in his direction, a severe insult in the Middle East.
Kissed, scolded and insulted with shoes, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has perhaps found his trip to Egypt to be more difficult than even he may have imagined.
After being greeted warmly Monday by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, then harangued by an Egyptian cleric about spreading Shiism in Sunni lands, Ahmadinejad was the target of a shoe-throwing attack in Cairo, The New York Times reports.
According to the Times, a Syrian man hurled a shoe in Ahmadinejad's direction, shouting, "You killed our brothers." CNN reports that the prosecutor's office said other men also threw their footwear at the Iranian leader. None of the shoes hit Ahmadinejad, though one hit his bodyguard.
The men were swarmed and quickly detained. They were later released on $75 bail.
In the Middle East, hitting someone with the bottom of your shoe — seen as one of the dirtiest objects — is severely insulting and disrespectful.
Iran has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad during his nation's ongoing, bloody civil war. The assailants, the office said, were Salafis, Sunni Muslims who oppose all Shiite political activity in Egypt. Iran is a Shiite country.
Earlier, during a meeting with Grand Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb at Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, Ahmadinejad was hectored by the cleric for bringing Shiism into Sunni territories and interfering in Gulf affairs. The sheik specifically asked Ahmadinejad to stay away from Bahrain, where Iran has been accused of lending support to protesters gathering against the country's Sunni government.
Ahmadinejad isn't the first world leader to have a shoe thrown at him in the Middle East. During a 2008 news conference in Baghdad, President George W. Bush was the target of another sartorial assault when Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi tossed both of his shoes at the president while shouting, "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog."
As in the Ahmadinejad attack, the footwear missed its mark. Zaidi was sentenced to prison and released in 2009.
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