The Arab Spring might just be taking on a new form. Some 400 protesters chose none other than the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo at which to dance and gyrate wildly in a rendition of the Harlem Shake (we explain what the dance is here).
The group comprised mostly of men stood outside the building Thursday evening, some wearing funny masks, others bare-chested, shouting anti-Islamist slogans and “Leave! Leave!” to President Mohammed Morsi. They then broke into the dance sweeping the world and YouTube, with some men masquerading as Salafis in traditional white robes.
Mideast watchers say the dance craze has been adopted in both Egypt and Tunisia as a form of protest against hardline Islamists who were propelled to power by the Arab Spring revolutions in early 2011.
On Wednesday, hardline Salafis tried to stop a group of university students in Tunisia making their Harlem Shake video.
While in the West it may be nothing more than the latest viral fad, the dance is being adopted for political ends, as described by an AFP reporter covering the Cairo event:
“Down with the supreme guide’s rule,” the protesters chanted after finishing the dance, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood’s religious leader Mohammed Badie.
“The message is clear,” said Farid Sayyed, one of the organizers.
“We are against the policies of the Brotherhood. Their guidance bureau (or ruling council) dictates government policy, not the presidency. The revolution continues.”
Here’s video of the Cairo shake posted on YouTube by Egypt's El Badil Media:
AP reports that the Muslim Brotherhood shut its office and turned off the lights during the protest.
On Wednesday in Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia where the Arab Spring revolution began, school students who were denied permission to film a Harlem Shake video were then attacked by 20 Salafis who decried "this Western dance of misbelievers.”
Near the capital Tunis, secular students clashed with Islamists on Thursday when the former were trying to make a Harlem Shake video. Police had to separate the two groups.
And here's a video from Tunisvisions of a public dancing of Harlem Shake and Gangham Style last Saturday. Here too, some students were shirtless, and others mocked Salafis in their white robes. Content warning, there are some graphic gestures being enacted:
Ynet describes one of the clashes in Tunis’ El Khadra neighborhood:
When a dozen ultra-conservative Muslim youths, some of them women in veils, showed up at the in Tunis's El Khadra neighborhood, a Salafist bastion, students shouted "Get out, get out!"
One of the Salafists shouted: "Our brothers in Palestine are being killed by Israelis, and you are dancing." He said he wanted to explain what behavior Islam considers as "haram" (prohibited) and "halal" (permitted).
That drew the ire of one youth, wearing the mask of a deformed face featured in the American horror film "Scream."
"Mind your own business and keep your lessons of morality for others," he shouted. "No guy like you is going to stop us from doing what we want!"
Another Salafist, bearded and wearing military gear, was found to be carrying a petrol bomb, but was surrounded by teachers who prevented him from using it.
The incident degenerated into fisticuffs before the Salafists retreated.
Student Fidaa Jebali who organized the event showed an AFP correspondent a red welt on her cheek. "One of the veiled girls called me an apostate before slapping me," she said.
Education Minister Abdellatif Abid says he’s ordered an investigation into one of the Harlem Shake events, and threatened students behind it with expulsion.
Punishment would not be unprecedented. On Saturday, Egyptian police said they had arrested four pharmaceutical students who filmed themselves dancing to the Baauer song in their underwear in a middle class Cairo neighborhood. Passersby accused the students of engaging in "a scandalous act" and tried to assault them, according to AFP.