In Northern Africa, students and protesters are testing their rights as citizens using an unconventional tool – the Harlem Shake.
Tunisian students faced threats from administration as they attempted to film a Harlem Shake video at their high school. Their actions sparked a region-wide use of the viral dance as a protest measure.
On campus, Salafi Islamic fundamentalists dressed in military garb attempted to interrupt the filming. The fringe sect claimed the students were dancing while their Palestinian peers suffered.
The Minister of Education Abdellatif Abid said the performance was out-of-line. Abid then threatened to reprimand or expel the involved students.
Now, students across the region are using the Harlem Shake crackdown as evidence of the administration’s lack of support for freedom of expression.
Harlem Shake viral videos remain in continuous circulation, including contributions by sports teams, dance companies, and music artists.
University and high-school students have been adding their own interpretation to the growing list of videos featuring the electronic song.
In Egypt, protesters used the dance to garner attention for their campaign against Islamic extremism. They danced in front of the gated headquarters of Islamic President Mohamed Morsi.
Press swarmed the event, joined by Muslim Brotherhood supporters who guarded the facility.
Egyptian students attribute the roughly 400-person dance-off to a group they call ‘Satiric Revolutionary Struggle’. The campaign will engage in tongue-in-cheek weekly protests at the Presidential headquarters, updating followers and supporters via Facebook.
Reactions varied – the region is torn between Islamist fundamentalism and secular leadership.
One student asserted that he and his peers would not support Egyptian rule that includes ‘human-rights violations every day.’ A university law student added, citizens ‘will protest in all ways and this is a peaceful way…We are free people and we will do what we want.’
A member of the Muslim Brothers standing guard outside the facility offered his thoughts. He believes the protesters should show religious respect by taking their satirical dances elsewhere. ‘Everybody is free to express themselves,’ he added, and ‘we respect our opinion and theirs.’ He claimed the Egyptian revolution had secured such rights for all citizens, not just Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
A university student lamented the devastation that has faced protesters over the course of Egypt’s history. He noted that the Harlem Shake antics intend to bring peaceful and semi-humorous protest to campuses and public spaces. ‘There has been enough blood, enough arrests, enough trials,’ he said.