Peter Tejler, Sweden’s new diplomatic envoy to Iran, caused an uproar recently for, well, baring his soles.
Tejler was meeting with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he crossed his legs, which exposed the soles of his shoes. An irate Ahmadinejad returned the gesture to an apparently oblivious Tejler.
Ahmadinejad was furious because to some Muslims, the gesture is an insult, as shoes are seen as unclean because they are “closer to the ground, closer to the devil and farther away from God.”
According to an Iranian news account, Ahmadinejad returned the gesture “in response to the impoliteness of his interlocutor.”