First Published: 2013-02-27


Dance as form of resistance: Salafists fail to stop 'Harlem Shake' in Tunisia


Dozen or so ultra-conservative Muslims attack Bourguiba Language Institute, but eventually withdraw.


Middle East Online

By Kaouther Larbi – TUNIS

Spontaneous dance: A sin in Salafists’ glossary

Salafist Muslims tried to prevent the filming of current Internet craze the "Harlem Shake" at a Tunis school on Wednesday, but were driven off after coming to blows with students, a correspondent said.

When the dozen or so ultra-conservative Muslims, some of them women in veils, showed up at the Bourguiba Language Institute in the El Khadra neighbourhood, a Salafist bastion, students shouted "Get out, get out!"

One of the Salafists, wearing military gear and carrying a Molotov cocktail he never used, shouted "Our brothers in Palestine are being killed by Israelis, and you are dancing."

The Islamists eventually withdrew, and the students were able to film their production.

On Monday, Education Minister Abdellatif Abid said a probe had been ordered into a staging two days earlier of a "Harlem Shake" by students in a Tunis suburb.

He said there could be expulsions of students or sacking of educational staff who were behind the staging of the dance.

In response, the ministry's website was hacked and a call went out on social media for the staging of a mega Harlem Shake in front of the ministry on Friday.

The incidents come as more and people around the world emulate the craze, which was sparked by a group of Australian teenagers who uploaded a 31-second clip "The Harlem Shake v1 (TSCS original)" onto YouTube earlier this month.

It has since been viewed millions of times.

Video footage, which shows participants smoking, dancing wildly in uncoordinated manner and simulating sexual acts, has spread on the Internet, with dozens of different versions attracting millions of views.

The Saturday version was purportedly staged by students from Menzah 6 district in a school compound, with some in shorts and others wearing fake beards and tunics showcasing the Salafists (

The Islamist movement has carried out a wave of attacks in the past year, including on cultural festivals and Sufi shrines.

In June, Salafists destroyed works of art exhibited in a chic suburb of Tunis which they considered "blasphemous."

That incident sparked clashes across the country that saw police stations and political party offices torched, in some of the worst violence since the January 2011 revolution that toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The secular opposition regularly accuses Tunisia's ruling Islamist party Ennahda of allowing a slow Islamisation of the society.

The education minister is a member of Ettakatol, a centre-left secular ally of Ennahda.


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