Mashrou’ Leila are one of the Middle East’s biggest alternative bands - much loved progressive voices whose socially aware lyrics and LGBT activism has earned them devoted fans all over the world.
So when their concert in Amman, Jordan, was banned yesterday, thousands reacted in fury and frustration.
The Lebanese group were scheduled to play in Amman on Friday as part of an international tour for their latest album, Ibn el Leil. But on Tuesday, it was announced that the authorisation for the show had been withdrawn.
The official line on the cancellation, from Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism, was that the show would threaten the ‘authenticity’ of the site. But Amman’s Governor Khaled Abu Zeid told AFP the group had been banned because their songs “contradict” religious beliefs.
In a statement, the band said they’d been “unofficially informed” that they’d never be allowed to play again in Jordan because of their political and religious beliefs and endorsement of gender equality and sexual freedom.
“We apologize for having thus far failed at creating a cultural environment that allows our children to speak their minds,” they wrote. “We pledge to our audience that we will continue to place the integrity of our art as our foremost priority, and to never succumb to the pressure to compromise our message, or to waive our freedom to speak.”
Among fans in Jordan, the response was one of outrage. Within hours of the decision Mashrou’ Leila was trending on Twitter. The top hashtags here mean #we_want Mashrou_Leila, #Support_Leila, and #Ibn_ElLeil_In_Amman.
Fans and supporters rallied round the band:
Banning art and music because you don’t agree with the songs is ideological terrorism against knowledge.
Congratulations, @mashrou3leila. Being banned is the exquisite validation that you're doing something right. It's an exclusive club. Welcome— Rabih Alameddine (@rabihalameddine) 26 April 2016
فرقة مشروع ليلى بتمثل الفكر الشبابي هالأيام. كلمات أغانيهم بتحكي عن واقع شبابي. الغاء الحفلة اعلان صريح من الدولة انها ضد الشباب والموسيقى— علي - العملاق اللطيف (@_AHA) 27 April 2016
Mashrou Leila represents the thoughts of young people these days. The lyrics of their songs talk about the reality of young people. Canceling the concert is a clear declaration that the country is against music and young people.
In Amman, young people have quickly started organising to try and persuade the municipality to reverse the decision - or else to make their anger and disappointment heard.
A petition has also been started by fans
Hamed Sinno, the band’s charismatic and vocal frontman, retweeted fans’ message of support and encouraged followers to resist the decision.
"يمكنهم قطع كل الزهور، لكنهم لا يستطيعون ايقاف الربيع ..."https://t.co/3fwDMkFFcL— hamed sinno (@hamedleila) 26 April 2016
His mum, who was born in Jordan, even joined in the condemnation.
But the response wasn’t just in support of the band. Some Jordanians expressed their support for the decision to ban what they called “satanic” music.
الي بطالبو بحفل مشروع ليلى شو بتهيألهم... فن بذيئ ما بحمل معو اي رسالة على شو قاتلين حالكم عليه وقرار الغاء الحفل صائب وفي مكانه ✌— Eman Abed Alazeez (@Eman_AAlazez) 27 April 2016
To whoever’s demanding Mashrou Leila’s concert what are you thinking? Indecent art carries no message for what you’re killing yourselves over. The decision to cancel the concert is just and in place.
The decision to cancel is in place. The album is full evil, words with a Satanic imprint, words that violated humanity and all humans.
The protest to support the band will take place later this week.
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