BEIRUT: Dutch group Within Temptation announced Sunday the cancelation of their Byblos International Festival concert set for August 7 in solidarity with Mashrou’ Leila.
The band released a statement on Facebook announcing the cancelation: “…another band called Mashrou' Leila was pulled from the festival according to the festival committee due to security reasons after religious fanatics demanded their performance to be cancelled followed by violent threats,” they said. “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, however, stayed hopeful that change would occur and a future concert is possible.
“Our last show in Lebanon is still very vivid in our minds and hearts,” the statement said. “We are looking forward to better days on which we will return to you in Lebanon.”
The Byblos International Festival responded with a statement of their own.
“We continuously call upon our supportive community to stand with us in our aim to keep freedom of expression, arts and music as well as the security of our artists and public as our paramount priorities,” they said. “We will never be silenced.”
Social media platforms immediately blew up, reacting to the news of the band’s withdrawal from the festival.
Many did not appreciate the cancelation: “Guys you’re missing the whole point. Mashrou’ Leila are a group of Lebanese guys, they know the situation in Lebanon, and they still chose to upload some super offensive pics. I thought they were supposed to play music not attack the Christian religion,” one Facebook comment read. “Since when has Satanism ‘become freedom of speech and expression’?” another comment read.
Others were more positive, commending the band for their decision: “Thank you for the support. What have you done is honorable and great step to show the real image of our society and how freedom of speech and rights are being treated especially the minorities,” one user wrote. “Although I was looking forward to attend you guys, but I have more respect to you... I don't like Mashrou3 Leila, but I respect their art and their freedom. Hope you can make it one day again,” another comment read out.
Some people were somewhere in the in between: “I don’t think pressuring Within Temptation to cancel was the right call. BIF aren’t to blame for any of this. If anything the religious fanatics will be happy about this. Good job,” one Twitter user wrote.
The Byblos International Festival committee canceled Mashrou Leila’s concert last week to “avoid bloodshed” after death threats were targeted at the band, with strong demands from politicians and the public. Religious groups pressured the committee to take this decision, claiming the band promotes “blasphemy and homosexuality.”
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