Egyptian authorities have released on bail four conservative Salafis arrested after brandishing their footwear at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shortly after another man attempted to use a shoe to strike the Iranian president.
The four Sunni Muslims were part of a group protesting Ahmadinejad’s visit at al-Azhar, the Sunni world’s preeminent religious institution, the prosecutor general’s office said in a faxed statement yesterday. A Salafi group and a rights organization have appointed representation for the four, according to a statement from the groups.
Pointing a shoe in someone’s direction is considered a grave insult in the Arab world, and is seen as likening them to the dirt on its sole.
The incident followed an attempt by another man to hit Ahmadinejad with a shoe as he walked near a centuries-old mosque near al-Azhar, which the Iranian leader had visited. Video footage of the incident showed a man reaching over security and attempting to flog Ahmadinejad on the head before the president was ferried away.
Ahmadinejad had earlier yesterday received a public rebuke from al-Azhar’s top cleric over his government’s intervention in the affairs of Sunni nations, while an adviser to the cleric chided Iran for seeking to spread Shiite Islam in Sunni Muslim nations.
He had arrived yesterday in Cairo for an Islamic nations summit, a trip that marked the first to Egypt by an Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The trip is partly aimed at further warming relations with the Arab world’s most populous nation following the election of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in June.
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