On May 30 2022, a Reddit user shared a photograph which purportedly showed a “shoe monument” in Tikrit, Iraq, commemorating an incident during which an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush during a press conference in December 2008:
Google Trends data showed an increase in searches for “Tikrit shoe statue” on May 30 and 31 2022. The May 30 2022 iteration appeared on r/Damnthatsinteresting, but a separate account shared the same image with a similar title to r/interestingasfuck in November 2021:
A monument in Tikrit, Iraq of the shoe thrown at George W. Bush. from interestingasfuckThree Thousand Year Old Statue Found in CappadociaThree Thousand Year Old Statue Foun...
— Earthling (@ziyatong) June 11, 2020
Readers typically understood the context, referencing a December 2008 press conference with Bush during a visit to Baghdad. A Wikipedia entry explained:
On December 14, 2008, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at United States President George W. Bush during an Iraqi press conference. Bush quickly ducked, avoiding being hit by either of the shoes. The second shoe hit the American flag, and Al-Zaidi was subsequently grabbed, kicked, and hurried out of the room by guards. Effigies of many United States Presidents had long appeared with shoes on them all over the Middle East, but it was not until this event that shoeing had received widespread notability. Since then, there have been many other shoeing incidents on an international scale. Al-Zaidi received a three-year prison sentence, which was reduced by two years. On September 15, 2009, after nine months of incarceration, he was released early because he had no prior criminal record.
One month later (in January 2009), Reuters reported that a shoe statue was constructed in Tikrit:
An Iraqi town [in January 2009] unveiled a giant monument of a shoe in honor of the journalist who threw his footwear at former U.S. President George W. Bush.
The two-meter (six-foot) high statue, unveiled [in January 2009] in former dictator Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit, depicts a bronze-colored shoe, filled with a plastic shrub. “Muntazer: fasting until the sword breaks its fast with blood; silent until our mouths speak the truth,” reads an inscription, in honor of journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who hurled his shoes at Bush and called him a “dog” at a news conference during the former president’s final visit to Iraq.
An archived Associated Press item referenced on the Wikipedia page featured the image attached to the social media posts. Dated January 29 2009, the caption read:
Iraqi officials share a laugh as they unveil a bronze shoe monument representing the one thrown by Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi at former U.S. president George W. Bush.
The director of an orphanage in Tikrit says she must remove the shoe sculpture set up to honor the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Fatin al-Nassiri says Iraqi police told her the statue had to be removed because government property should not be used for something with a political bias.
She says the statue was taken down on Saturday [January 31 2009].
The bottom of the foot or sole of the shoe is considered particularly insulting in many cultures because, as it is the part of the body that is almost constantly in contact with the ground, it is also the dirtiest part of the body:
Shoes are an extension of the foot in this regard, and hitting someone with your shoe is very offensive. This was dramatically highlighted in 2008 when Iraqi journalist Muntadhar Al Zaidi threw his shoes at George Bush, US president at the time, at a press conference. This was the ultimate insult.
It boils down to the rather practical view that the foot is one of the dirtiest parts of the body and therefore carelessly showing it to another demonstrates a lack of respect.
This view is partly o to Islamic teachings in which the Quran instructs Muslims to wash their feet (in addition to their face, hands, elbows and head) as part of pre-prayer ablutions. Muslims also remove their shoes upon entry to a mosque.
On May 30 2022, a Reddit post featuring a Tikrit shoe statue (commemorating the December 2008 incident during which an Iraqi journalist threw two shoes at President Bush) reached the top of r/all. The image was published by the Associated Press in January 2009. The image was real, and a shoe statue was briefly on display in Tikrit in January 2009. However, the statue was removed the same month.