The Dutch group Within Temptation cancels a concert in support of censored Lebanese artists

The Dutch symphonic metal group Within Temptation announced the cancellation of a concert in a festival in Lebanon by “solidarity” with the Lebanese rock group Mashrou’ Leila.

Second deprogramming for the Bybos festival. The Dutch group Within Temptation announced that it would not play while the performance of the group Mashrou’ Leila was deprogrammed after virulent criticism from Christian groups. On Tuesday 30 July, the organizers of the Byblos International Festival, a seaside resort north of the capital Beirut, said they were “forced” to cancel the concert of the alternative rock band “to avoid bloodshed”

With an openly gay singer and committed texts dissecting social issues and addressing LGBT issues, the group Mashrou’ Leila, formed in 2008 by students from the American University of Beirut, was accused of violating the sacredness of Christian symbols.The Dutch group, which was to perform on Wednesday in Byblos, deplored on its Facebook page the “violent threats” made by “religious fanatics” against Mashrou’ Leila.
“We decided to cancel our show in Byblos in solidarity with Mashrou’ Leila and in support of tolerance, freedom of speech and expression,” the group stressed in a statement.

“Absolute necessity
The Catholic Information Centre, a religious institution that collaborates with the authorities on artistic and cultural censorship, was one of the voices calling for the cancellation of the Mashrou’ Leila concert.Within temptation noted that the “Lebanese authorities are not in a position to ensure security for artists to perform in peace”. The artistic director of the Byblos festival, Naji Baz, said he was saddened by the decision of the Dutch artists, saying that he did not regret cancelling the Mashrou’ Leila concert.“The safety of our artists and spectators is our top priority,” he told AFP. “We have never cancelled any performance at our festival, even in the worst moments (…) If we did this time, certainly rage in the heart, it is out of absolute necessity”, he insisted.

At the origin of the controversy around Mashrou’ Leila, an article shared on Facebook by the leader of the group, Hamed Sinno, illustrated by a photo-montage where the face of the Virgin Mary was replaced by that of the American star Madonna. But also two songs, Idols and Djin, offending according to the Church the “religious and human values”.

A mosaic of eighteen religious communities, Lebanon is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East. But religious institutions continue to have a major influence on social and cultural affairs. The cancellation of the Mashrou’ Leila concert “is a step backward for Lebanon”, deplored on Tuesday the NGO Human Rights Watch.