Lebanon protest: Boycott festival that blocked LGBT-led band

Hundreds of petitioners are urging a boycott of the upcoming Byblos International Festival because the festival cancelled a performance by the LGBT-led band Mashrou’ Leila.

Mashrou’ Leila (Photo courtesy of Asia Times)

“Stand up for freedom of expression in Lebanon,” the petitioners say.  “Byblos International Festival succumbed to the pressure of homophobic and religious extremists in Lebanon, who threatened violence against the LGBT-led band Mashrou’ Leila and cancelled their concert on Aug 9. The Lebanese government failed to protect freedom of expression, artistic creation, and human rights. We urge Yo-Yo Ma, Within Temptation, and Martin Garrix to cancel their performances in protest against this bigotry, extremism and homophobia.”

As of the publication of this article, the petition had more than 700 signatures.

This is an excerpt from the Associated Press article about the cancellation.

Festival organizers released a statement saying the “unprecedented step” of cancelling the performance by Mashrou’ Leila was done “to prevent bloodshed and maintain peace and stability.”

“We apologize for what happened, and apologize to the public,” it added.

Some church leaders and conservative politicians set off a storm of indignation on social media this week when they demanded that the Mashrou’ Leila concert be canceled, accusing the Lebanese group of blasphemy and saying some of its songs are an insult to Christianity. The band, known for its rousing music and lyrics challenging norms in the conservative Arab world, soon became the center of a heated debate about freedom of expression.

Online, some groups and users posted threats suggesting they would violently stop the concert.

The band released a statement saying it regretted the libel campaign and fabrications that led to the cancellation.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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