Jordan: Lebanese rock band’s concert cancelled for second consecutive year

In a 13 June 2017 statement, Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila announced that Jordanian authorities banned their 27 June 2017 concert scheduled to take place in capital Amman’s Exhibition Park, making this the second consecutive year that authorities have banned the band’s performances.

The popular band, whose music has been called the “soundtrack to the Arab Spring”, is not only controversial for its lyrical satirical wordplay and themes, but also because two of its members are openly gay.


Opposition to the band
CNN reported that Jordan’s Ministry of Interior cancelled the show after members of Parliament filed a petition against the show, which was coupled with media campaign protesting the event. Minister of Tourism Lina Annab confirmed to CNN that the show was cancelled due to opposition “that could not be ignored”.

“The cancellation of the concert was simply because [opposition] escalated in a very quick manner at a time when there wasn’t enough time for anybody, especially the organizers or the group, to be able to dispel any of the misperceptions and any of the misunderstandings about what this group is all about,” Annab said. “Obviously, there’s a misunderstanding about what the group’s message is.”

Dima Tahboub, one of the parliamentarians who opposed the band’s performance, told CNN that the band’s lead singer Hamed Sinno’s openly gay stance was “exactly” why she and other parliamentarians petitioned for the cancellation. Tahboud added that the band’s stance and lyrical content on sexuality went “against the religions and norms” of Jordan.

Sinno told the news agency that he had been the target of the media campaign against the band’s show and that the band had received several death threats.

“I don’t think anyone could wake up to an endless stream of death threats and insults without taking it to heart,” Sinno said.


Second consecutive ban
In 2016, Jordanian authorities cancelled the band’s performance set to take place on 29 April 2016 at the Roman Theatre in Amman.

However, just four days prior to the performance, Amman’s governorate office denied the application due to the ”church’s objection” to one of the band’s songs.

In the band’s statement at the time, they added that further to the official ban, they were “unofficially informed” they would never be allowed to play in the country because of their “political and religious beliefs and endorsement of gender equality and sexual freedom”.

In a further turn of events, the ban was lifted a few days later, but not in time for organisers and the band to set up the gig.

The band had played in Jordan, at the Roman Theatre in fact, twice before, including its last show on 14 August 2015.

The band’s statement on the 2017 ban further read:

Again, after being invited to perform in Amman this year, and after the concert organizers obtained all the necessary licenses and permits, the Jordanian authorities have banned our performance.

We were genuinely under the impression that the Jordanian authorities were taking a clear stand with regards to freedom of expression, and the internationally sanctioned human rights pertaining to the LGBTIQ+ community, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Jordan’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, HRH Prince Zeid Bin Ra’ad Al Hussein has been supporting.

The inconsistency of the Jordanian authorities in this respect (inviting us, then banning, then cancelling the ban, then inviting us again, then banning us again – all within the course of 14 months – has culminated in a clear message, that the Jordanian authorities do not intend to separate Jordan from the fanatical conservatism that has contributed in making the region increasingly toxic over the last decade.



» Read Mashrou’ Leila’s statement in full here


Photo: Mashrou’ Leila/Facebook


Sources

» Newsweek – 20 June 2017
Gay lead singer banned from performing in Jordan says he is victim of government homophobia

» CNN – 16 June 2017
Jordan bans Lebanese rock band after furore over queer frontman

» The Jordan Times – 15 June 2017
Mashrou’ Leila’s concert ban draws controversy

» The New Arab – 13 June 2017
Mashrou’ Leila banned from performing in Jordan…yet again

» Facebook – 13 June 2017
Mashrou’ Leila statement on Jordan ban


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