Talk of throwing shoes

When you throw shoe to a politician, you often represent the hatred of many people who may be angry with the party in power.


By Fawad Kaiser

When you throw shoe at a well-known politician, you immediately get publicity at national and international media. Your face is flashed all over and you become a celebrity within no time. A day after ink was thrown on Foreign Minister Khawaja Ali Asif in Sialkot, a shoe was thrown at ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on Sunday. The incident comes days after another PML-N leader, Ahsan Iqbal, had a shoe thrown at him, making it the third incident of similar nature against the ruling party’s top leadership in recent days.

When you throw shoe to a politician, you often represent the hatred of many people who may be angry with the party in power. Some people are utterly frustrated in their life. They are angry with everyone especially the politicians who promised so many things during the elections. They vent up their frustration by throwing shoe on the politician to express their anger.

Nawaz Sharif is not the first politician to have shoe thrown at him. He joins an ever-growing list of world leaders and decision makers. Be that as it may, those who planned the incident in Lahore were experimenting on a new style of politics of using hoodlums to sneak through security cordons, hurl shoes at political opponents to humiliate and provoke the supporters to resort to violence.

Throwing shoe signifies what the renowned French philosopher, Michel Foucault, labelled in his book, History of Madness as “insanity in the age of reason.” It exposes the immaturity of our democracy, and lingering pockets of madness in our civilisation. This “insanity” is expressed by the litany of adjectives used to describe the ignominy of the shoe throwing incident: “Sad”, “shameful”, “a disgrace”, “unfortunate”, “primitive”, “backward” and “barbaric”. It also finds expression in labels used to describe the people involved in the shoe-throwing incidents: Rowdy “thugs”, “goons” and “hooligans”.

Moreover, the madness of the hoodlum who took a strategic position in front of the dais and shouted victory slogan as he threw his shoe would be labelled as “choreographed hooliganism”. All these expressions of residual irrationality are now holding our democracy and development hostage. However, the thinking behind the causes of the throwing shoes is absolutely irrational, albeit depraved.

Be it on social media or in political circles, such acts or trends in our society and culture should be condemned or it could be interpreted to mean that we as a society are endorsing pervert mob mentality as valid. In our thoughts, we often unconsciously hold words or idioms based in society’s feudal mindset. Hitting someone with a shoe in public is in principle undemocratic and shameful. If one investigates stories about hitting someone with a shoe, he will find that this sort of language was used only by those who were antisocial elements in the society. Insulting someone with a shoe is the language of hate.


How can the society preach about a crowd punishing someone as it sees fit at a public place? The courts may not decide punishment, for throwing shoes but there are laws for it. There would be many articles soon highlighting the idiocy made by the man responsible for throwing show at Nawaz Sharif, but the media should abstain from giving one-minute fame to the infamous. There may have been mistakes made by the ousted Prime Minister, but a crowd in kangaroo court style cannot decide what mistakes he has made. The government speaks the language of power. But if people also start speaking the brutal language of power, society should be worried. Democracy provides the space for open criticism. In a civilized fashion. Use that.? Are we abandoning what democracy allows and encourages criticism with decorum and substance and meaning? Throwing a shoe or hitting someone with a shoe or showing the bottom of your shoe when sitting with legs up on a chair and facing another person all are culturally unacceptable and are considered to be a grave insult and belittling to a person.

Criticising former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, when needed, perhaps even take a dig at him in an intellectual debate is freedom of speech but thought of throwing shoes is offensive. These would not be my thoughts out of reverence for the post of the ousted Prime Minister but against the sick mentality of throwing shoes on anybody as a means of punishment. The language of our democracy should be such that the weakest in our society should feel safe. Critics also have another duty that of introducing alternative ideas. The Courts may exercise the law and send of shoe-throwing culprit to prison, but how can those who support these practices are allowed a say in society?





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