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My daughter's class is currently studying Eastern culture and religions. Her teacher wants them to tell him why it is insulting in the Eastern cultures to show the bottoms of one's feet and/or shoes. I have looked and looked and only confirmed that it is insulting, but I haven't found anything that tells why.
That is an excellent question and I have no idea why it's insulting! DH and I were born and raised in the US. His family is Irish, mine is German. Eastern culture is a big question mark for us in a lot of ways. The best we can guess is that it's because your feet/shoes are dirty and cleanliness is very important. To expose something dirty for all to see would therefore be insulting. We could be way off base though. There are others that come here from time to time that are from other countries that I'm sure could help.
I'm from the U.S. but I've had people from a few different cultures tell me this is not polite (including if, we are sitting in a room and I put my unshod feet up on a footstool, etc). I can't remember now which cultures consider this to be rude though... I think at least one of the people who told me this was vietnamese. I don't think it's specifically a muslim thing. I would assume that it is because your feet are dirty from walking on the ground. Most muslim households remove their shoes at the door for this reason, to avoid bringing dirt into the house.
((Egypt version)) the feet are dirty from exactly like Shilo said, remember the people in the country most often wear sandals or flipflops so the feet are constantly dirty therefore removing them as to not drag dirt into someone's home is a sign of respect.. hence if you sit with your feet up in front of elders it is disrespectful, for instance my FIL would sit indian stlye in the home on the sofa when my MIL's father came he would put his feet down and sit up properly.. these cultures thrive on respect more so then I have ever seen in the US.. hope it helps.
Thank you Heather(hettyhoo) for my beautiful siggy
Islam Jr. 09-20-2003 * Sumaiya-Alee 09-07-2007 *Angel Baby 01-08-2010
I also want to clarify that it is a cultural, not a necessarily religious custom (regarding specifically feet, not respect as I will explain below). In Islam, you take your shoes off to pray (after washing your feet), and so to expose your feet in the holiest of places during prayer is required, and therefore (obviously) not insulting. My husband is from Pakistan, and ditto on the respect thing; if an elder is present it is disrespectful to have your feet up. It's not necessarily the feet that are the issue, it's the casual nature that's considered rude. When an elder is present you sit up straight with your feet on the floor (or stand as they enter) and your entire mannerisms are expected to change, including manner of speak. If you are the elder it is perfectly fine to relax with your feet up, as is the same (typically) if you are with close friends.
Thank you GraysMama for my siggy!
Last edited by mshah; October 26th, 2010 at 05:31 AM.