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Lebanese indie band concert cancelled after church pressure

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By Lauren Chadwick
Lebanese indie band concert cancelled after church pressure
Copyright  REUTERS/Jamal Saidi/File Photo

A music festival in Lebanon cancelled indie rock band Mashrou' Leila's concert after church pressure and violent threats.

Mashrou' Leila is an internationally renowned Lebanese band whose lyrics address social issues in the Arab world. The lead singer is openly gay.

The Byblos International Festival organisers said in a statement on Tuesday that the band's concert next month would be cancelled "to prevent bloodshed and to maintain security and stability."

The Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Byblos issued a statement on July 22 demanding that the festival cancel the concert, stating that the city of "coexistence and culture" should not welcome concerts "inconsistent with Christian morals and beliefs".

The band had also received violent threats from social media users.

The four musicians said in a statement that their group was built "on the right of difference, mutual respect and tolerance" and said that their aim is to create work that is "beautiful and creative". They said their group is not "satanic" and has no "secret goal or project."

In another statement, the group said it was "sad that some of the lyrics from our songs have been cherry-picked, taken out of context, and twisted into a meaning very far from what the songs are actually about."

Some of the group members were interrogated by the public prosecutor and pledged to remove posts on their Facebook page, at the request of Lebanese state security.

Amnesty International blamed the Lebanese authorities on Tuesday for failing to protect the musicians.

"The cancellation of the ceremony in Lebanon is not only a severe blow to the right to freedom of expression but also evidence of the Lebanese government's failure to take a firm stand against the hate campaign," the human rights group said.

The band has performed throughout Lebanon in recent years and held two concerts in the historic city of Byblos in 2016.

But it's not the first time the group has had a concert cancelled. Jordanian authorities have previously cancelled the group's concerts.