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 (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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