Despite its popularity, the Lebanese Indie band Mashrou Leila has been facing a lot of discrimination in Lebanon, as well as Egypt, and now in Qatar. Based in Beirut, the band is mostly famous for its anthems about political freedoms, LGBT rights, and modern Arabic identity.
These students from the American University of Beirut (AUB) focused their ambitions on music; vocalist Hamed Sinno, multi-instrumentalist Firas Abou Fakher, violinist Haig Papazian, and drummer Carl Gerges.
In Egypt, controversy sparked all over the country in 2017 when the LGBT flag was waved during the concert, provoking a crackdown by the local authorities on the LGBTQ community.
Last year, after Byblos planned to host Mashrou Leila’s concert, the Municipality and local religious figures pressured to have it canceled because of their band’s LGBT tendencies. The event was indeed canceled, triggering a reaction on social media among local human rights activists.
The news went beyond our geographic borders back then. The international media took it on a ride, exposing discrimination of marginalized communities in our country and the lack of civil liberty, including rights of expression.
Once more, this Lebanese band faces another wave of discrimination and this time by the Qatari community refusing them to talk at a conference.
The band members were scheduled to have a discussion about media revolutions in the Middle East at Northwestern University, an American university in Qatar but the local community wouldn't take it.
News of this planned university conference spiked controversy and a full social media rejection trended with the hashtag "we refuse Mahrou Leila's conference." نرفض_محاضرة_مشروع_ليلى#
Most of the Qatari community refused this band’s event because it contradicts the country’s conservatism, as stated in a tweet addressed to the university.
Dear @NUQatar— د. هند المفتاح #تميم_المجد (@halmuftah) February 1, 2020
You are highly appreciated to deliver high quality education that build our human capital in different aspects, but remember that our religion & culture is RED LINE. Full stop.
According to the Middle Eastern Eye, the University and the band reached then a mutual agreement to change the venue of their talk to the university's campus in Illinois, USA, due to pressure exerted by the community.
Northwestern’s Director of Media Relations Jon Yates told Reuters, “The decision to relocate was made out of an abundance of caution due to several factors, including safety concerns for the band and our community.”