Prejudice leads to US university in Qatar canceling Lebanese rock band talk

Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou’ Leila performs during the Ehdeniyat International Festival in Ehden, Lebanon. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 04 February 2020

Prejudice leads to US university in Qatar canceling Lebanese rock band talk

  • Critics questioned level of openness in the country that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup
  • Northwestern said it had agreed with the band to move the event to its US campus

DOHA: An American university canceled an event at its Qatar campus featuring a prominent Middle East band whose singer is openly gay, after an online backlash sparked safety concerns.
Members of Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou’ Leila were scheduled to take part in a discussion about “media revolutions in the Middle East” at Northwestern University’s Qatar campus on Tuesday.
But after hostile online comments against Mashrou’ Leila’s appearance, Northwestern said it had mutually agreed with the band to move the event to its US campus.
On social media, some criticized the decision to cancel the event as self-censorship and denying free speech. Others questioned the level of openness in the country that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“The decision to relocate was made out of abundance of caution due to several factors, including safety concerns for the band and our community,” Northwestern’s Director of Media Relations Jon Yates told Reuters by email.
Yates said the university is committed to academic freedom both in Qatar and the United States, and that moving the event would ensure Mashrou’ Leila’s “ideas and art could be heard.”
The band’s management did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Mashrou’ Leila, which has garnered international acclaim for lyrics tackling sectarianism, gender equality and homophobia, has seen its events canceled elsewhere in the region following pressure from conservative groups. The band is a vocal supporter of equal rights for marginalized groups.
Critics used an Arabic hashtag on Twitter to demand the event be canceled, with some accusing Mashrou’ Leila and Northwestern of spreading views that are against Qatari and Islamic values. Others said they opposed same-sex relationships.
“This is against our cultural standards and societal norms,” one Twitter account posted.


So-called honor killing of teen girl brings outcry in Iran

Updated 6 min 8 sec ago

So-called honor killing of teen girl brings outcry in Iran

  • Iranian president Rouhani has urged his cabinet to speed up the introduction of harsher laws against such killings

TEHRAN: The so-called honor killing of a 14-year-old Iranian girl by her father, who reportedly used a farming sickle to behead her as she slept, has prompted a nationwide outcry.
Reza Ashrafi, now in custody, was apparently enraged when he killed his daughter Romina on Thursday after she ran away with 34-year-old Bahamn Khavari in Talesh, some 320 kilometers (198 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran.
In traditional societies in the Middle East, including Iran, blame would typically fall on a runaway girl for purportedly having sullied her family’s honor, rather than on an adult male luring away a child.
Romina was found five days after leaving home and taken to a police station, from where her father brought her back home. The girl reportedly told the police she feared a violent reaction from her father.
On Wednesday, a number of national newspapers featured the story prominently and the social media hashtag #RominaAshrafi reportedly has been used thousands times on social media, with most users condemning the killing.
Proposed legislation against honor killings has apparently shuttled for years among various decision-making bodies in Iran.
On Wednesday, Romina Ashrafi’s case led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to urge his Cabinet to speed up harsher laws against such killings and he pushed for speedy adoption of relevant legislation.
There is little data on honor killings in Iran, where local media occasionally report on such cases. Under the law, girls can marry after the age of 13, though the average age of marriage for Iranian women is 23. It is not known how many women and young girls are killed by family members or close relatives because of their actions, perceived as violating conservative Islamic norms on love and marriage.
Iran’s judiciary said Romina’s case will be tried in a special court. Under the current law, her father faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Iran’s vice president in charge of family affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, expressed hope that a bill with harsher punishments will soon be in the final stages of approval.
Shahnaz Sajjadi, special assistant to citizens’ rights in the presidential directorate on women and family affairs, on Wednesday told the khabaronline.ir news website “We should revise the idea that home is a safe place for children and women. Crimes that happen against women in the society are less than those that happen in the homes.”