CAIRO: In less than 48 hours following Iraqi journalist Muntazar Al-Zaidi’s attempt to hit US President George W. Bush with a pair of shoes, hundreds of Facebook groups and pages were created for the “Arab hero to support the detained journalist.
By Tuesday afternoon, more than 300 groups (about 246 in Arabic and 66 in English) and 276 fan pages were created on Facebook hailing and supporting the Iraqi reporter who worked for Cairo-based Al Baghdadia news channel. The number is increasing almost every half hour.
Al-Zaidi’s main page drew more than 3,400 fans in one day from all over the world posting pictures and caricatures mocking the American president.
Another page called “The Hero Journalist Muntazar gathered more than 4,100 fans the same day it was created.
Al-Zaidi did what all Arabs wanted to do, bringing back Arabs’ lost pride and dignity, seemed to be the consensus among the members of these groups. They all expressed a wish that the journalist would survive whatever hardships he is facing now or is expected to face in the future.
“May Allah bless your hands for that wonderful throw. Finally, George W. Bush got what he deserved: A shoe, one member on Al-Zaidi’s fan page said.
Nicknames like “braveheart, “the greatest and “Arab hero were bestowed on Al-Zaidi and poems were written in honor of his “heroism. Some members even called for building a statue of him.
Some created groups to petition for Al-Zaidi’s release, while others said that the journalist should receive the Pulitzer Prize. Some even went as far as saying that the Iraqi journalist should receive the Noble Prize.
Many were unhappy that Al-Zaidi missed his target and that his shoes didn’t hit their presidential target.
An online game was also created in which Bush is featured trying to dodge flying shoes. The links connecting to the hosting website spread like wildfire on Tuesday.
Not all the groups were created for Al-Zaidi, others focused on his shoes, upholding the pair as a valuable historical icon.
“All Our Shoes with Muntazar’s Shoes and “The Golden Shoes Award Goes to the United States, Received by George Bush are some of the group titles created.
A group called “The Public Campaign to Bring Back the Shoes called for the return of the pair of shoes so that it could be properly re-thrown to hit the target.
A Saudi citizen offered to buy the pair of shoes for 10 million Saudi Riyals, calling them the “freedom shoes, saying that they are worth more than all his property combined. Former Iraqi national football team coach Adnan Hamad said that he is ready to pay $100,000 for the shoes.
Some groups gave Al-Zaidi’s shoes names like “dignity shoes and “the golden shoes.
Al-Zaidi received his share of criticism as well, with some groups condemning what he did as unprofessional, especially for a journalist.
“This isn’t something we should be proud of, I agree that Bush deserved it but this guy brought shame to his profession and to his colleagues, one user identified as Hisham Araab wrote on the wall of “The Arab Campaign to Support the Iraqi Journalist group.
On YouTube, more than 3,150 videos of the incident were uploaded with an average 100,000 views in one day and were close to the five-star rating.
Away from the internet, the Arab Lawyers Union, headed by Egyptian Sameh Ashour, announced that a defense committee for Al-Zaidi was formed calling for a fair trial for the journalist, with the support of both the Arab League and the Egyptian government.
“We urge all human rights organizations and the international society to help save the life of the Iraqi journalist and prevent any physical assault that may target him, Ashour told the press.
Also, the freedoms committee at the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate is organizing a protest against the American occupation of Iraq and in support of Al-Zaidi.