TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — After attacks by religious extremists, the assassination of an opposition politician and the resignation of the prime minister, Tunisia is now being assailed by… an Internet dance craze.
The YouTube phenomenon of the “Harlem Shake” has popped up in spots all over the world, but in Tunisia it’s more than just a curiosity or a fad — it has become part of a bitter rivalry between the secularists and Islamists striving to shape the identity of this North African nation as it transitions to democracy after years of dictatorship.
Videos posted by Tunisian students have provoked a violent backlash by conservative Muslims, condemnations from the education minister and hundreds of new copycat videos online.
The global Internet sensation involves a 30-second video showing first one person dancing, than dozens gyrating maniacally to the song “Harlem Shake,” recorded by Brooklyn disc jockey and producer Baauer. Thousands of new videos of everyone from Norwegian soldiers to Australian teenagers and now Tunisian students doing the “Harlem Shake” are now online.
Students in the U.S. have been suspended for recording the videos, and the American Federal Aviation Authority launched an investigation on Feb. 28 after one video was recorded on a flight from Colorado Springs. In Egypt, activists performed the dance in front of the offices of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, coupled with chants of “leave, leave.”
In Tunisia, the “Harlem Shake” craze comes just over two years since a revolution overthrew a repressive secular dictatorship and ushered in new freedoms, including for religious ultraconservatives known as Salafis who are eager to impose their will — even violently at times. Salafis are suspected in the killing of leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid, an assassination that triggered the resignation of Tunisia’s prime minister earlier this year.
Tunisia’s experience with the video began with a group of students at Tunis’ El Menzah high school producing their own version, which then spawned a host of copycat videos all over the country.
In the El Menzah high school video, a single student dances to the song, quietly watched by others until the halfway point; then the video cuts to a whole slew of students, some in their underwear, some dressed as bearded Salafis, and some as Gulf emirs flailing around.
Opinions over the videos have been split, with some calling it immoral and provocative — even going so far as to call the students unbelievers and therefore marked for death — while others seeing it as typical of humor in Tunisia, where many retain strong secular tastes.
The video sparked an angry reaction from Minister of Education Abdellatif Abid, who last week announced an investigation of the principal of the school for allowing an “indecent” video to be filmed on the premises.
As students elsewhere across the country have tried to create videos of their own, they have often been attacked by religious conservatives.
In the coastal city of Mahdia, one student received 12 stitches on his head after being beaten following one of the attacks. In the southern commercial city of Sfax and in the resort city of Sousse, police have had to intervene and separate groups battling over the right to make a “Harlem Shake” video.
“This dance for us represents a way to vent, to forget for a little while all the stress we’ve been under for the past year,” said Sabiha, a 21-year-old university student who protested Friday in front of the Education Ministry against the minister’s investigation, performing a version of the dance.
Her colleague Saber, 24, who also did not want his last name used because of the tensions surrounding the song, said being able to dance like this was a fruit of Tunisia’s revolution.
“We wanted to take advantage of our newfound freedoms thanks to the revolution, after the years of harassment and repression,” he said.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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