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'Harlem Shake' rocks deeply divided Arab world

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-02

The “Harlem Shake” internet craze has swept the Arab web, turning the peculiar electro breakdance into a protest dance against ruling Islamists in Tunis and Cairo.

After going viral in Australia, America, and the UK, the “Harlem Shake” internet craze has reached the Arab capitals. From Tunis to Beirut or Cairo, Arab youths have posted YouTube videos where one person starts dancing before the video cuts to a large group of people, in costume or in their underwear, moving frenetically to electronic music.

While in the West the “Harlem Shake” is the latest bizarre -- and hilarious -- internet trend, the break-dancing performances have turned into a light-hearted way to protest against Islamists in several Arab countries.

Dozens of Tunisian university students scuffled this week against Salafi extremists, who were trying to prevent them from filming what they regard as “indecent” dancing.

Some 70 Egyptian protesters also performed the “Harlem Shake” dance on the doorstep of the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in the capital Cairo on Thursday. The dancers -- some of them dressed in the white robes associated to the Salafists -- shouted anti-government slogans and slammed the police for arresting four pharmaceutical students who had filmed their own “Harlem Shake” dance the week before.

Several videos of the chaotic pelvis-thrusting dance have been filmed in other Arab countries as well – including ultra conservative Saudi Arabia - without stirring much controversy.

Most Arab “Harlem Shake” performances involve small numbers of people indoor – at home, at the office, in schools, etc.

A group of youths staged a “Harlem Shake” dance purporting to take place in war-torn Syria. The performance starts with an armed confrontation between Assad loyalists and Free Syrian Army soldiers before the video cuts to rival fighters dancing together with signs “Stop the Violence” and “Do the Harlem Shake”.

Harlem Shake in the office of Telfaz 11, a Saudi television:

Harlem Shake in a public garden in Moroccan capital Rabat:

Date created : 2013-03-01