Lebanon music festival cancels Mashrou’ Leila concert amid controversy
Lebanon's world famous band Mashrou' Leila has been drawn into a controversy by the country's religious leaders. It's led to one of their most anticipated concerts at the Byblos Music Festival being cancelled.
The organisers of the festival claimed they cancelled the Mashrou' Leila performance "to prevent bloodshed" after church leaders accused the group of blasphemy over one of their song lyrics.
The band has come out to defend themselves and has called this an attempt to violate their freedom of speech, something the Lebanon constitution guarantees to every citizen.
According to official reports, "On July 22, a lawyer filed a complaint with the public prosecution calling on the government to prosecute Mashrou’ Leila for insulting religious rituals and inciting sectarian tensions, citing Articles 317, 474, and 475 of the Penal Code. The same day, the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Byblos issued a statement claiming the band’s songs “offend religious and human values and insult Christian beliefs.” They demanded that the Byblos Festival cancel the show. The campaign proliferated on social media, and many internet users threatened the band with violence if the concert went ahead."
In an official statement on their Twitter account the band has called out the controversy head on.
"Our songs do not insult any sacred religious symbols or beliefs, and that insulting people’s feelings was primarily the result of campaigns of fabrication, defamation, and false accusations of which we were the first victims, and it is unfair to hold us responsible for them. Our respect for others’ beliefs is as firm as our respect for the right to be different," the band said.
The group has performed at the festival twice before, in 2010 and 2016.