Byblos was finished off by back face of the threat. The organizers of the international music Festival, which is held every year since 2003 in this seaside resort north of Beirut, have been “forced” to cancel Tuesday a concert of the rock group Mashrou’Leila, accused of “breach of the values and christian symbols”. “In an unprecedented move (…), the committee (of the festival) has been forced to cancel the concert Mashrou’Leila on Friday, August 9, 2019, to prevent the shedding of blood,” announced the management of the event – which occurs in particular Marc Lavoine – in a press release.
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With a singer is openly gay and thoughtful lyrics addressing various social issues, including the rights of the LGBT community, Mashrou’Leila, formed in 2008 by students of the american university of Beirut, was, in particular, provoked controversy with an article shared on Facebook by its leader, Hamed Sinno. The publication was illustrated with a photomontage in which the face of the Virgin Mary had been replaced by that of Madonna. Two of their songs, Idols and Djin , are also deemed offensive to the “religious values and human” by the Church.
In a press release published Tuesday, the group condemned “a deliberate campaign” that is based according to him on false charges and a distortion of their words. He said that the publication controversy had been shared on Facebook in 2015, and deleted a year later. Mashrou’Leila has also expressed “sincere regret for having offended the beliefs of anyone.”
Insults and incitement to murder
The controversy has reached its climax these past few days, amid insults and inciting thinly veiled murder. Mosaic of eighteen religious communities, christian and muslim, Lebanon is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East. But the religious institutions continue to exert a major influence on the cultural and social affairs. The country has for several years been the scene of arrests recurring activists, or ordinary citizens critical of the corruption or religion.
The cancellation of the concert comes a day after a new call has been launched by the episcopal commission for catholic, attached to the Church and in charge of media affairs. “The situation has become hysterical with direct threats to the safety of the public and performers”, told AFP the festival’s artistic director of Byblos, Naji Baz. “We have tried as much as possible to find a solution (…)”, he adds, in reference to a compromise last week that the group had to publicly apologize in a press conference in consideration of the maintenance of the concert. The conference did not finally take place.
last week, two of the musicians of the group were arrested before being released. At the end of several hours of interrogation, the justice has clarified that there would be no punitive measures against the group.
The rock band has already seen his concerts cancelled in other countries of the region, notably in Jordan in 2016 and 2017. In Egypt, a concert in 2017, during which spectators had brandished the flag of arc-en-ciel, had caused a vast wave of repression against the gay community by the authorities.
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in The aftermath of this decision, many denounce a violation of the freedom of expression. “This is a step backward for Lebanon, which has always prided itself to promote diversity and to be a centre for music, art and culture in the region”, has complained to the AFP Aya Majzoub, a senior researcher at the NGO Human Rights Watch.
A gathering of support for the group has been organized on Monday by activists in the center of Beirut. “If you fear for your faith because of a song (…) révises your faith, not the song”, could one read on one of the placards. “No to censorship”, read it on another poster aloft by a protester.