Lebanon: Civil society and NGOs outraged by cancellation of the Mashrou' Leila concert

July 23rd 2019

After several days of intense controversy in the country and threats made some Christian clergy and others in the wider population, the concert of the pro-LGBT rock band originally scheduled for August 9 as part of the Byblos festival was canceled by organizers wanting to "avoid bloodshed". Hateful comments and incitement to violence against members of the group had indeed circulated on social networks.

"The Lebanese authorities, and in particular the Ministry of the Interior, must protect the world-famous Mashrou' Leila group from an increasingly intense hate campaign and ensure that these musicians, renowned for their songs tackling social and sensitive issues in Arab countries such as homophobia, patriarchy and corruption, can give their concerts safely," Amnesty International said in a statement on July 23.

Lebanese group Mashrou' Leila, known internationally, has been accused of undermining Christian values and symbols in their songs and social media posts. On July 22, religious leaders called for the cancellation of the concert and a complaint was officially lodged against the group for insulting the Christian religion and apologizing for homosexuality. Two of the musicians who were in Lebanon were then arrested by state security before being released.

In Lebanon, a mosaic of eighteen religious communities, the law penalizes the violation of religions and sacred symbols as well as homosexuality (Article 534 of the Penal Code). A more tolerant jurisprudence developed in recent years, particularly in contrast to other Arab countries.

"The Lebanese authorities, and in particular the Ministry of Interior, must protect the worldwide famous Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila from a mounting hate campaign and ensure the band, known for songs tackling social issues in Arab societies such as homophobia, patriarchy, and corruption, are able to perform in safety and security, Amnesty International said in a  communiqué.