Qatar Event with Mashrou' Leila Canceled amid Furor


Northwestern University in Qatar has canceled a media discussion featuring popular Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila for "safety reasons," the institution said Tuesday, amid social media furor.

The American university said it invited the Lebanese band, one of the most popular music groups in the region, to a talk at its Doha branch about Middle Eastern media revolutions this week but then moved the event to its Evanston, Illinois campus.

"The decision to move the discussion to Evanston was made mutually between Northwestern and members of Mashrou' Leila," Jon Yates, director of Northwestern University-Qatar's media relations, told AFP.

"The decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to several factors, including safety concerns for the band and our community.

"Because Northwestern firmly believes that the band's ideas, their art and their voices are important for the world to hear, the university is working to bring them to our home campus in the US."

The band, whose lead singer is openly gay and whose Arabic lyrics tackle a range of taboo topics, faced backlash from conservatives online who objected to the planned event with the Arabic hashtag "We reject Mashrou' Leila's discussion".

One Twitter user said the event would have been acceptable if it were a debate but criticized the band for "vomiting on us their belief in the form of a lecture."

This comes as Qatar gears up to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, whose organizers last year said all fans -- including members of the LGBT community -- would be welcome.

Qatar, like all other Gulf countries, bans homosexuality.

Religiously diverse Lebanon is one of the Middle East's more liberal countries, but its myriad of recognized sects still wield major influence over social and cultural affairs.

While Mashrou' Leila has often played in Lebanon, it has attracted controversy across the religiously conservative Middle East.

Last year, a top Lebanese music festival canceled a Mashrou' Leila concert for security reasons, after the group was accused of offending Christians.

After audience members waved a rainbow flag during a Mashrou' Leila concert in Egypt in 2017, Egyptian authorities launched a crackdown on the country's LGBT community.

Its concerts in Jordan were canceled in 2016 and 2017.

The group formed in 2008 while its members were students at the American University of Beirut.

Comments 5
Thumb s.o.s 04 February 2020, 18:09

Qatar is the mother of the Muslim Brotherhood if we consider Egypt as its father.... so nothing good can ever come of this backward backstabbing petromonarchy.

Missing SupportBeirut 04 February 2020, 21:05

Then tell the lebanese who live and work there to get out and send back all the aid Qatar has given Lebanon and the other forms of financial benefits lebanese have gotten from it such as from tourism. Mashrou3 laila is zbeleh and Qatar did well by canceling it just as they were canceled in lebanon. Why do you love to turn things into racist remarks? Just as you do with Fahmy. And what is good to you? The promotion of sins? God calls people like you hypocrites in the Quran.. "they enjoin evil (i.e what God declared to be sins) and forbid good (i.e what God declared to be good, not your desires and liberal nonsense)".

Thumb s.o.s 05 February 2020, 15:57

Pope François said “who am I to judge” ? So who are you to judge, Leb97b?
As for their musical style, it comes down to personal preferences... you know, taste, colors, etc which is subjective.

As for teaching 7 y.o. kids it’s to avoid mockeries later on. No later than yesterday I was informed that a 15 y.o school girl committed suicide because of social harassment on social media.
This doesn’t mean your son or daughter will turn gay... these things aren’t contagious because it isn’t a disease unlike what the Third Reich believed.

Missing lebonknees4peace 05 February 2020, 10:59

Leb97b - Your a hater! What is it your business to judge others? What are you trying to hide?

Thumb thepatriot 05 February 2020, 13:59

Are you a backward cleric or something? The most modern, civilised, and successful countries in the world are the most tolerant. Have you learned nothing?
You say that Mashrou3 Leila is "zbeleh"... Basrd on your taste in music? Or based on the fact that some of the musicians are gay? In any case.. is that relevant to call them that? Who do you think you are? You are as backward as Qatar who is a county of hypocrites, they preach for development and modernism, but finance isis. To hell with them and their money!