'Soldiers of God' attack Mar Mikhail pub over presence of 'homosexuals’
Members of the hardline Christian group Soldiers of God overnight attacked a pub in Beirut’s bustling Mar Mikhail area over the “presence of homosexuals” in it.
Videos posted online showed the pub’s ransacked terrace and people locking themselves inside as a Soldier of God militant shouted threats and warnings.
“This is the place of Satan. It is promoting homosexuality. This is forbidden in the land of the Lord … We are still using words with you and this is only the beginning … We had warned you a hundred times,” the militant says.
An Internal Security Forces patrol later arrived on the scene as the pub-goers were evacuated.
The incident sparked a heated debate among social media users in Lebanon.
Sheikh Hassan Merheb, a Sunni Muslim cleric who is a senior member of the Dar al-Fatwa religious authority, voiced support for the hardline Christian group on his X platform (formerly known as Twitter) account.
“A salutation from the heart to the men of Soldiers of God over what they did a while ago by prohibiting a sexual deviation party on one of Beirut’s streets,” Merheb said.
“I said it before and I repeat it now: I stand by anyone who confronts this deviation and unnatural backwardness and I put my hand in their hands to defend our families and society against this degenerate and destructive thinking,” the cleric added.
The journalist Mariam Seif meanwhile warned that “the areas that had been previously considered safe for nightlife are turning, thanks to Soldiers of God, into unsafe areas.”
“It is in the interest of the residents of these areas, before anyone else, to confront this group before it gets stronger and controls all the details of their lives,” Seif added.
The journalist Elsy Moufarrej for her part described Soldiers of God as “the Christian version of Hezbollah.”
“They are acting as virtue police in Ashrafieh. Who tasked them with deciding what’s allowed and what’s not? Why are security forces not protecting citizens and their rights? If anyone gets harmed, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the interior minister, security forces, the instigators and the ‘virtue police’,” Moufarrej added.
The group, which reportedly comprises around 100 members, had attacked alleged homosexual symbols and events in the past.
Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has been recently soaring in Lebanon, one of the Middle East's more liberal countries.
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has called for a boycott of rainbow products and said last month that gay people, "even if they do it once... are to be killed."
While Lebanon is generally considered more tolerant of sexual diversity than other Arab countries, the police regularly raid gay bars and other LGBTQ-friendly spaces.
Lebanese law currently allows courts to punish "unnatural" sexual relations with up to one year in prison.
The country's LGBTQ community in 2018 scored a success when a court ruled that same-sex conduct was not unlawful, but since then it has seen more setbacks than victories.
Last year, a crackdown saw activists harassed and Pride gatherings canceled after the interior ministry instructed security forces to clamp down on events "promoting sexual perversion."
The ministry argued that LGBTQ events violated customs, traditions and "principles of religion" in Lebanon, where political power is split between Shiite and Sunni Muslim, Christian, Druze and other groups.