Dutch band cancels Lebanon gig in support of local group

A Lebanese activist holds an Arabic placard during a protest expressing solidarity with Mashrou' Leila in Beirut. (AP)
Updated 04 August 2019

Dutch band cancels Lebanon gig in support of local group

  • The Dutch symphonic-rock outfit had been set to play on Wednesday at the event

BEIRUT: A Dutch band said on Sunday it had canceled its gig at a top Lebanon festival in solidarity with a Lebanese group pulled from the event after threats over alleged offense to Christians.

Within Temptation joined other activists in protest after festival organizers last week pulled Lebanese indie group Mashrou’ Leila from the program over fears of “bloodshed.”

The Dutch symphonic-rock outfit had been set to play on Wednesday at the event in the Christian-majority seaside town of Byblos.

“We have decided to cancel our show in Byblos in solidarity with Mashrou’ Leila and in support of tolerance, freedom of speech and expression,” they said in a statement on Facebook.

They made the decision after learning the festival had withdrawn Mashrou’ Leila from the program “due to security reasons after religious fanatics demanded their performance to be canceled followed by violent threats,” they said. Lebanese Christian clerics have accused Mashrou’ Leila, whose singer is openly gay, of offending Christians in two of their songs titled “Idols” and “Djin.”

Critics on social media also threatened to attack the concert if the Lebanese band went ahead with the performance on Aug. 9.

On Sunday, the festival’s artistic director said he was saddened to have lost another band but did not regret last week’s decision to cancel Mashrou’ Leila.

“We have never before canceled a performance ... If we did it this time, albeit with an enraged heart, it’s because we absolutely had to.”

Naji Baz, Director, music festival

“The security of our artists and audience is our absolute priority,” Naji Baz told AFP.

“We have never before canceled a performance ... If we did it this time, albeit with an enraged heart, it’s because we absolutely had to,” he said. Mashrou’ Leila has said it “sincerely regrets causing offense to anyone’s beliefs” but denied that any of its songs were religiously offensive.

Rights groups have denounced an increase in restrictions on freedom of expression, while activists and fans have protested in the street and online.

Religiously diverse Lebanon is one of the Middle East’s more liberal countries, but its myriad of recognized sects still wield major influence over social and cultural affairs.

Mashrou’ Leila has often played in Lebanon since forming in 2008 while its members were still students at the American University of Beirut.

But it has created waves in the religiously conservative Middle East.

After a Mashrou’ Leila concert in Egypt in 2017, at which members of the audience waved a rainbow flag, Egyptian authorities launched a crackdown on the country’s LGBT community.

Its concerts in Jordan were canceled in 2016 and 2017.


Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

  • Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption

BEIRUT: Three lawmakers and members of Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc will not abide by its decision to name a new prime minister on Monday. 

Meanwhile, activists in the civil movement are holding meetings to announce a general strike and the blocking of roads on Monday in protest over reports that the new government will not include technocrats.

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption. He later said he would not agree to head a new government unless it consisted of technocrats.

Lawmaker Neemat Frem urged citizens to provide him with the name of their favorite candidate to head the new government, “for you are the primary source of authority, and it is my duty to convey your voice in the binding parliamentary consultations.”

Lawmaker Chamel Roukoz said he will not nominate anyone for the position of prime minister.

Lawmaker Michel Daher declared his intention to boycott the parliamentary consultations if Al-Khatib is the only candidate.

Aoun assured a delegation of British financial and investment institutions, and US bank Morgan Stanley, that binding parliamentary consultations will take place on Monday to form a new government, which will help Lebanon’s friends launch agreed-to development projects.

“The new government’s priority will be to address the economic and financial conditions as soon as it is formed,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

On Friday, Hariri sent letters to the leaders of a number of countries with good relations with Lebanon. 

He asked them to help Lebanon secure credit to import goods from these countries, in order to ensure food security and availability of raw materials for production in various sectors.

His media office said the move “is part of his efforts to address the shortage of financial liquidity, and to secure procuring the basic import requirements for citizens.”

Among the leaders Hariri wrote to are Saudi Arabia’s King Salman; the presidents of France, Russia, Egypt and Turkey; the prime ministers of China and Italy; and the US secretary of state.

On Dec. 11, Paris is due to host a meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon. Reuters quoted a European source as saying: “France has already sent invitations to attend the group meeting.”

Protesters continued their sit-ins in front of government institutions in Nabatieh, Zahle and Saida.

In Tripoli, protesters blocked the city’s main roads, which were eventually reopened by the army.

In Akkar, protesters raided public institutions and called for an “independent government that fights corruption, restores looted funds, and rescues the economic situation and living conditions from total collapse.”

Lebanese designer Robert Abi Nader canceled a fashion show that was due to be organized in Downtown Beirut, where protesters are gathering. 

Abi Nader said he intended through his show to express support for the protests by designing a special outfit called “the bride of the revolution,” and revenues were to be dedicated to families in need.