Mashrou’ Leila is in the headlines again, after they have been recently threatened a few days before their planned concert in the northern city of Jbeil [Byblos], in Lebanon.
The threats issued by one of the Christian fundamentalist groups called “God’s Soldiers” attributed their rejection that the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila will be hosted in the city to the band’s songs and history in “promoting homosexuality and insulting the bible."
The band that has its lead singer an openly gay, has been targeted through the Facebook page of the group who issued an official letter signed by the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Jbeil who threatened the band from entering the city as well as those who want to attend their concert.
"We will not tolerate insults to our religious beliefs… Especially as it offends out Christian beliefs and religious and humanitarian morals.”
In response, the band has issued an official response on their social media accounts expressing their surprise by the defamatory campaigns targeting them as this is not their first concert in the city.
On social media, a massive debate was launched among users who were split between standing up for freedom of expression and against censorship, while others supported the “God’s Soldiers” demands and called for the cancellation of the concert.
Would be nice to see Lebanese officials supporting Mashrou3 Leila amid the calls by some religious circles to prevent them from holding a concert in Jbeil.— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) July 22, 2019
Is it too much to ask for you to stand behind the Lebanese talent you love to lionize in your speeches? #مشروع_ليلي
On hashtag #اوقفو_مشروع_ليلى [Stop Mashrou’ Leila], many campaigned for banning the band.
Translation: “A band that is set to perform in Byblos on August 9 is offending our holy Christian figures.”
One user compared the language used by those fundamentalist groups to ISIS calling them the “Christian version of ISIS”.
Translation: “A hysterical wave by the ISIS-alike Christians because of Mashrou’ Leila concert. Those who don’t like the band and what they sing for don’t have to attend the show but threatening people to prevent them from going and considering it an offensive to religion is a problem in the faith and minds of those people, not the band. Again, they are trying to face the political crisis by stirring up a wave of homophobia.”
The attack on the band has got Lebanese worried over the freedoms in their country as Lebanese authorities have been reportedly banning movies, applications and websites for different reasons.
جهة اسلامية تعترض على عرض فيلم في دور السينما فيتم توقيفه— AMEEN (@Ameen_media) July 22, 2019
جهة مسيحية تعترض على عرض غنائي فيتخذ قرار بوقفه
انتو اكيدين انو هيدا لبنان يلي بدنا نعيش فيه ؟؟؟؟؟؟
علما انني من غير المعجبين بأغاني #مشروع_ليلى إطلاقاً .
بس عند حريات الناس بسماع ما يريدون .. لازم نعمل وقفة ونفكر
Translation: “An Islamic organization criticizes a movie so it gets canceled. A Christian organization criticizes a music concert so it gets banned. Are you sure this is Lebanon? I am not a fan of Mashoru’ Leila music at all but when it comes to people’s choices to hear what they want, we should stop and think.”
Meanwhile, this is not the first time Mashrou’ Leila gets attacked in the Middle East. For years now, the alternative band has been stirring controversy over their open support to the LGBT+ in addition to facing struggles in organizing performances in several parts of the Middle East, on the basis that they “promote homosexuality”.
The band was banned from performing in Egypt after their latest performance in 2017 when authorities carried out a crackdown on LGBT+ activists and community after a rainbow flag - the symbol associated with the LGBT+ groups - was raised during the band’s concert at the Cairo Festival City Mall.
Since then, Mashoru’s Leila was banned from performing in Egypt in addition to Jordan who earlier in 2016 canceled a planned concert as a response to public pressure that considered “the sexuality of the band” as a "violation of Jordanian customs and traditions."
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