According to Iranian website Asriran.com the Swedish ambassador, Peter Tejler, committed the apparently offensive act after a ceremony in which he presented his credentials to the president.
It is unclear, though, whether the president himself was offended by the ambassador’s cross-legged pose or whether this was, in fact, the interpretation of events by Asriran.com. Photos from the meeting show Ahmadinejad himself sitting cross-legged, too.
Armenian website Panorama translated the Iranian website’s report, which explains that crossing one’s legs “contradicts international diplomatic norms”.
The report continues: “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his part, himself crossed his legs in response to the impoliteness of his interlocutor.”
Photographs from the meeting indeed show Tejler sitting cross-legged, his right foot pointing slightly upwards.
The Atlantic Wire has published this explanation, from the University of West Florida, of why it is a taboo in Muslim culture to show the soles of one’s feet.
“Pointing the soles of the feet towards someone is impolite because the soles of the feet (shoe) are considered dirty, closest to the ground, closer to the devil and farther away from God. When in the presence of Muslims, be careful not to raise or cross your legs in such a way that the sole of the foot faces others in the room.”
The website of the Swedish Embassy in Tehran confirms that the ceremony and meeting took place in on December 3rd but has no mention of the ambassador’s and the president’s sitting poses.
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