Mashrou’ Leila ‘pressured’ to cancel Lebanon gig following threats from Christian groups

Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou’ Leila are being pressured to cancel an appearance in their home country by conservative Christian groups.

According to the Daily Star, the organisations has slammed the musicians’ satirical songs – that often tackle themes such as politics, religion, sensuality and homosexuality – for insulting to the Bible.

“After looking at the goals of Mashrou’ Leila and the content of the songs it performs, which affect religious and humanitarian values as well as Christian sanctities, the Maronite Archdiocese of Jbeil strongly condemns the concert,” the community wrote in a statement on 22 July.

Mashrou’ Leila insist they are “not on some sort of mission to blaspheme or disrespect people’s religious symbols.” (Getty)

Since then, the group has insisted that the group –  openly gay lead singer Hamed Sinno, drummer Carl Gerges, violinist Haig Papazian and keyboard player Firas Abou Fakher – be suspended from “the land of holiness, civilisation and history.” If they are, they would be unable to perform their upcoming concert at Byblos International Festival on August 9.

“The Maronite Archdiocese of Jbeil leaves it up to the Catholic Information Center to do what is necessary.”

“I contacted Byblos’ members of parliament and other Christian officials, and I told them that this [gig] poses a danger to our community,” Father Abdo Abu Kasm told Voice of Lebanon Radio. “We won’t let this go through.”

Elsewhere, the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Byblos issued a statement that claimed the band “directly opposes the Christian faith, religious values, and human morals”.

Fundamentalist group Jounoud al-Rab criticised Sinno for sharing a meme of Madonna as the Virgin Mary on Twitter back in 2015, adding: “Pope Francis called on us to support homosexuals and help them recover, not to promote homosexuality and slander the mother of God.”

Mashrou’ Leila defends itself against the ‘defamatory campaign’

Responding to the escalating backlash on Facebook, Mashrou’ Leila issued a statement that read: “To celebrate 10 years since the inception of Mashrou Leila, the Byblos International Festival invited the band to perform on the 9th of August. We were then quickly surprised by a defamatory campaign, which relied exclusively on fabrications that couldn’t be further from the truth ,to crush freedom of expression.

“It’s very sad that the some of the lyrics from our songs have been cherry-picked and twisted into a meaning very far from what the songs are actually about. The easiest way to pervert a work is to take words out of context, and decide to give them a motivated reading, without actually looking at what the work is trying to accomplish.

“Our goal is, and always has been, to grow as artists, and use the spaces given to us to try to shed light on the problems in the world around us. We are not on some sort of mission to arbitrarily blaspheme and disrespect people’s religious symbols.”