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Ban on Mashrou' Leila concert triggers controversy

By Laila Azzeh - Apr 27,2016 - Last updated at Apr 27,2016

In this September 14, 2012 photo, Hamed Sinno, 24, lead singer and songwriter of the Lebanese group Mashrou' Leila performs with the band at the ancient Roman Theatre in Amman (AP photo by Diaa Hadid)

AMMAN — Authorities' ban of Mashrou' Leila's concert in Amman, which was slated for April 29, stirred controversy among fans and supporters of the decision. 

On Tuesday, Amman Governor Khaled Abu Zeid announced the cancellation of the band's concert, which was supposed to be held at the Roman Theatre, as it "violates the traditions and customs of the Jordanian society".

"Some of the band's songs contain lyrics that do not comply with the nature of the Jordanian society," he said in a statement.

In response to the decision, the Lebanese rock band addressed its fans on Tuesday, saying that the decision was taken despite the fact that Mashrou' Leila has already performed in the Kingdom three times.

"The written justification officially provided is that the performance would have been at odds with what the Ministry of Tourism viewed as the authenticity of the site, despite the fact that we had the chance to perform for you at the same specific site three times in the past, and had followed the same permit procedure before the competent authorities.
Informally, the story is much more problematic," wrote the band on its official Facebook page. 

"Our understanding is that said authorities have pressured certain political figures and triggered a chain of events that ultimately ended with our authorisation being withdrawn.

"We also have been unofficially informed that we will never be allowed to play again anywhere in Jordan due to our political and religious beliefs and endorsement of gender equality and sexual freedom," it added.

The members of the group said they deeply regret cancelling the event in a country that "we have made our own".  

"Jordan is the home of some of the most supportive, beautiful and kind people we have had the pleasure of working with and playing for. Jordan is also the only place where we get to perform for our Palestinian audience, who organise elaborate bus trips to come from Palestine to see us play".

Nermeen Murad, a researcher and activist, said the "government should seriously consider the value of the yardstick it is using to allow or disallow voices/dialogues/lifestyles and the exposure of Jordanians to that diversity".

"Our system has become so accustomed to providing a fertile ground for the radicalised mentality that it stopped seeing its behaviour as an enabler and facilitator of the 'do it my way or I won't accept you' mindset," she added, noting that the issue is "larger" than Mashrou' Leila. 

"Banning diversity is what is contributing to the threat to our security and not the other way around. I am truly saddened to hear this and hope this decision is reversed immediately," said Murad.

Jordanian poet and human rights activist Zulaikha Aburisha also slammed the decision, saying that the role of art is to introduce different perspectives on issues that ignorance and bias have prevented people from perceiving.

On the other hand, supporters of the ban cited "poisonous" concepts they claim the band is "trying to instil" among young people to justify the authorities' decision. 

"The band is free to encourage homosexuality, contempt of religions and sexual freedoms, and we are free not to let them perform in a country where traditions and good values are respected," Mohannad Mohtaseb commented on social media.   

However, Kayed Awamleh criticised the decision as populist, as "traders of Islam, principles and traditions... proliferate. They are harmed by music, but not by ignorance, molestation, killing and suppression".  

On his official Facebook page, Father Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media, praised the authorities' decision, saying that the band was supposed to perform on Great Friday.

"It is a smart and wise decision that is aimed at safeguarding Jordan's reputation; no investment or tourism is allowed at the expense of morality, culture and respecting religions," he added.    

Lina Jazrawi said that "thousands of young Jordanians... admire the band's innovative music and they have the right to choose to go to their concert".


Meanwhile, an event on Facebook was created inviting people to convene at the Roman Theatre on Friday, the same day the concert was supposed to take place, and listen to Mashrou' Leila's songs.

114 users have voted.


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