#BBCtrending: Outcry over shoe on Mecca's Kaaba

A policeman leans against a sacred building in Mecca Image copyright Social media
Image caption This image has been widely shared on social media

A photo of a Saudi policeman resting his foot on a holy building has angered many in the Arab world, but also triggered a wave of sympathy.

The image has been shared widely on Twitter, and appears to show a policeman leaning back against the Kaaba - a square building at the centre of Islam's most sacred mosque, in Mecca. It's unclear who took the photo.

"This is the most holy place on earth, look at how he is undermining it," said one tweeter. "People dream all their life to touch Kaaba just once... but this guy is so disrespectful," said another, in reference to the pilgrimage that many Muslims hope to make to the hallowed spot. The hashtag #عسكري_يضع_قدمه_على_الكعبة, which translates as #SoldierPutsHisFootOnTheKaaba has been used more than 17,000 times. The picture has appeared on a number of news websites, prompting complaints from some readers who object to its publication.

The governor of Mecca, Prince Mishal Bin Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, has reportedly ordered an investigation into the incident, and called for disciplinary action. In Arab culture, touching something sacred with a shoe is considered highly offensive. Officials initially claimed he wasn't wearing shoes, but a type of rubber slipper that staff at the mosque use regularly.

Many have now taken to Twitter to speak out in defence of the policeman. Many said he must have been very tired and needed a break. "This is silly, people need to get their priorities straight," said one, and "it's just a big rock people," said another. Several people suggested the picture itself was hypocritical: "Who's taking photos during Haj?" asked one.

Prince Mishal has apparently now asked the police to hold workshops and training sessions to educate staff at the mosque on how to behave.

Image copyright Thinkstock