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03/01/2013

How the Harlem Shake fuels Egypt and Tunisia's protesters

AMMAN -- If they were looking to upset their po-faced political leaders and humourless Islamists it worked.

Young people in Tunisia and Egypt whose energy and anger at the Arab establishment started off the revolutions in the region are trying a different tact to shake it up - the Harlem Shake.

The silly dance went viral on the Internet after some Australian teenagers posted their version on YouTube.

All over the world people staged their own take on the song and posted it online. But when Arab kids joined in the fun they got a different reaction.

Tunisia’s education minister promised an investigation into how the students could have done something so outrageous in front of a school. He said that stripping down to underwear in front a school was not in line with educational objectives.

Lebanon’s Daily Star called it “a symbol of the cultural battle raging between secularists and Islamists for the soul of a nation widely viewed as the Arab world's most progressive.”

In Egypt the throng with some wearing fake beards and long white robes popular with the religious conservatives staged the silly dance in front of Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo.

The unimpressed Islamists turned off the lights.

It may look like a funny and passing fad but it is also about the freedom to poke fun at power, something that's been long missing in the Middle East.

More dance protests are being planned in Egypt and Tunisia. Stay tuned.

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at the Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour.


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