07/31/2019, 10.06
LEBANON
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Church pressure leads to cancellation of Mashrou’ Leila from Byblos Festival

​The organizers cancel the controversial band's preformance "to avert a bloodbath". For the local Maronite eparchy the songs of the indie rock group "violate the values ​​of faith". Criticism from activists and civil society: a decision that represents a "dangerous precedent" in terms of censorship.

Beirut (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The organizers of the Byblos International Festival have canceled the indie rock band Mashrou ’Leila“ 's performance to "avert a bloodbath”.The Maronite Church had launched a campaign against the group, accused of promoting songs and texts offensive of Christians. The pledge of the band members to make public apologies before the event went unheard.

Leading the Christian "crusade" against the band was the Maronite eparchy of Jbeil (Byblos), according to which the songs "violate the values ​​of faith". From the outset, the local Church has called for the cancellation of the show or the removal of the band, whose singer has openly declared himself gay and whose songs attack sectarianism, homophobia amid hopes for gender equality.

Priests and social media users arrived ay threatening to forcibly disrupt the performance. Some of them renamed themselves "soldiers of God". On the other hand, human rights activists and associations have called the pressure campaign to cancel the show scheduled for August 9 part of a growing wave of attacks on freedom of speech and marginalized communities in Lebanon.

In a note, the organizers of the music festival spoke of an "unprecedented move" in which the committee had to "forcefully interrupt the Mashrou 'Leila show" to "prevent a bloodbath and preserve security". On 29 July, a group of protesters gathered in Beirut to denounce the growing climate of intolerance, censorship and repression in Lebanon, once famous for being a beacon of freedom in the Arab world.

"Canceling the show will represent a dangerous precedent," said the gay rights activist George Azzi. "If this is repeated - he adds - it means that Lebanon has entered a black tunnel, from which it will not emerge".

The group, which in the past has performed in Byblos in two different shows in recent years, says it is in shock over the escalation of "accusations and lies" in the context of a smear campaign. "We aim for what is beautiful and innovative. This is neither a satanic band ... nor does it have any secret agenda,” the four musicians said.

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