The ‘Harlem Shake’ has become a viral video craze in the last few weeks. A typical ‘Harlem Shake’ video consists of a single person dancing crazily in a space while many other people are acting normal and seem oblivious to the dancing person. Then, all of a sudden the video cuts to the entire group of people dancing crazily in extravagant, yet often silly, costumes. Looking on youtube, you can find videos of swimwear models dancing in speedos, the entire Miami Heat basketball team dancing in their locker room, Norwegian army officers dancing in camouflage, and various college students dancing in college libraries, college houses, and classrooms.
You can also find videos of protestors partaking in the ‘Harlem Shake’ video craze. Yet, their videos are not just for fun but have become a new form of Middle East protest. Outside of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, a large group of protestors danced. In a Tunisian town plagued with uprisings in the Arab world, students utilized the ‘Harlem Shake’ video craze to clash with Salafists, super conservative Islamists.
The videos were streamed live, recorded by activists and later appeared on Egyptian news channels. They’ve made their way into other social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, spreading awareness and bringing attention to governmental clashes occurring in Tunisia and Egypt, leading to the arrest of at least 4 students in Egypt.
For many, the ‘Harlem Shake’ craze may seem like nonsensical fun but in the Middle East, the dance has become politicized as police and Islamist groups try to prevent these videos from happening and students and protestors stand up for their right to free expression and defy officials.