Lebanon’s Byblos festival cancels Mashrou’ Leila show after religious pressure

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou' Leila performs during the Ehdeniyat International Festival in Ehden, Lebanon, August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou’ Leila performs during the Ehdeniyat International Festival in Ehden, Lebanon, August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

Lebanon’s Byblos festival has canceled a concert by Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila which was set for next week after calls from church leaders who accused the group of blasphemy.

The band, which has an openly gay vocalist and has played in major cities around the world, has said it is the target of a smear campaign in Lebanon to crush freedom of expression. The musicians have received threats on social media in recent weeks.

“In an unprecedented move…the committee was forced to stop the Mashrou Leila show…to prevent bloodshed and preserve security,” the major summer music festival, in the ancient city of Byblos, said in a statement.

 In a statement on Monday, the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Jbeil (Byblos) said most of the band’s songs “violate religious values” and it was not becoming for Byblos to host concerts “that are directly at odds with Christian faith”.It called on the festival organizers to cancel the show.

Mashrou’ Leila, in a statement posted on social media, noted that it had played all over Lebanon in the past and said it was “odd that there’s been a backlash to one of those songs now, knowing that it doesn’t actually try to offend anyone, or their value system(s).

“We are not on some sort of mission to arbitrarily blaspheme and disrespect people’s religious symbols.”

Supporters of Mashrou’ Leila expressed solidarity with the group. “Freedom for Mashrou’ Leila,” Lebanese musician and composer Marcel Khalife wrote on social media.




One response to “Lebanon’s Byblos festival cancels Mashrou’ Leila show after religious pressure”

  1. Niemals Avatar

    Lebanese fimdirector Ziad Doueiri* (Double citizen; Lebanese and French!) was charged with filming in Israel.
    NOTICE that Doueiri has expressed opposition to boycotts of Israel!
    *Doueiri left Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War to study in the United States…
    “Wonder Woman” was banned in Lebanon, just because the actress completed Israeli military duty…

    Lebanon with ZERO TOLERANCE again.

    Now the four musicians of Mashrou’ Leila said in a statement that their group was built “on the right of difference, mutual respect and tolerance” and said that their aim is to create work that is “beautiful and creative”. They said their group is not “satanic” and has no “secret goal or project.”

    In another statement, the group said it was “sad that some of the lyrics from our songs have been cherry-picked, taken out of context, and twisted into a meaning very far from what the songs are actually about.”

    Some of the group members were interrogated by the public prosecutor and pledged to remove posts on their Facebook page, at the request of Lebanese state security.

    Amnesty International blamed the Lebanese authorities on Tuesday for failing to protect the musicians.

    “The cancellation of the ceremony in Lebanon is not only a severe blow to the right to freedom of expression but also evidence of the Lebanese government’s failure to take a firm stand against the hate campaign,” the human rights group said.
    Mashrou’ Leila had received violent threats from social media users.

    In Beirut Around 150 people gathered in Beirut’s Samir Kassir Square Monday to show their support for local band Mashrou’ Leila in light of mounting pressure by Lebanese Christian groups to cancel an upcoming concert.

    “This is way bigger than Mashrou’ Leila,” said 22-year-old Marc Ghazali, who attended the protest.

    “I think it’s time to acknowledge that we have a lot of young people who want to express ideas that don’t conform to religious teachings and religious beliefs. Regardless if the concert happens or not, we cannot deny this reality,” Ghazali told The Daily Star.

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