A Lebanese rock band with an openly gay lead singer has been banned from performing in Jordan, reportedly because of their support for LGBT equality.
Mashrou’ Leila, a five member group, revealed on Facebook that they would no longer be performing in Amman as scheduled on Friday.
The group, which advocates for freedom of religion, political expression and sexual and gender diversity in the Middle East, has been described as “the soundtrack to the Arab spring”.
Mashrou’ Leila’s Lebanese-American lead singer and co-founder, 28-year-old Hamed Sinno, whose mother was born in Jordan, is a proudly gay man.
On Tuesday, the band announced that their authorisation to play at the show had been withdrawn with the official explanation that “the performance would have been at odds with what the Ministry of Tourism viewed as the ‘authenticity’ of the site”.
The group noted that they had preformed three times before in the same location and said they had learned of the true reason “unofficially”.
“Informally, the story is much more problematic,” they said. “We have been unofficially informed that the reason behind this sudden change of heart, few days before the concert day, is the intervention of some authorities. 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pressured certain political figures and triggered a chain of events that ultimately ended with our authorisation being withdrawn.
Lead singer Hamed Sinno
“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.”
The band called on Jordan to reconsider its stance and “to choose fighting alongside us, not against us, during this ongoing battle for a culture of freedom against the regressive powers of thought control and cultural coercion”.
They added: “We denounce the systemic prosecution of voices of political dissent. We denounce the systemic prosecution of advocates of sexual and religious freedom. We denounce the censorship of artists anywhere in the world.”
Formed in 2008 at the American University of Beirut, Mashrou’ Leila has released three studio albums, often courting controversy with their subject matter.