[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/03/13/shoe.thrower.fans/art.iraqi.shoe.thrower.gi.jpg caption="A Lebanese student in Beirut attends a December rally to support the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist."]
(CNN) - They've sung his praises on social networking pages, calling him a "hero," "the greatest man of our time," "a legend." They've said he deserves to be knighted and should be decorated with medals. They've cried out for his amnesty and have even proposed serving time for him.
The man many hundreds of thousands of Facebook users honor is no other than Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for hurling his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush.
The double-whammy size 10 shoe toss, neither of which hit Bush, took place in December at a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq. In many traditional Middle East circles, throwing shoes at someone is considered a grave insult.
To do this to an American president surrounded by Secret Service agents, no less, was as shocking to riveted viewers who watched the footage later as it was to the president himself.
"First of all, it's got to be one of the most weird moments of my presidency," Bush said later. "Here I am getting ready to answer questions from the free press in a democratic Iraq, and a guy stands up and throws his shoe. ... I'm not angry with the system. I believe that a free society is emerging, and a free society is necessary for our own security and peace."
Expressing their own freedom on Facebook, a worldwide fan base rose up to laud al-Zaidi's actions. They formed hundreds of fan pages and groups, big and small, serious and light. One is even called the "Shoe-Throwing Appreciation Society."