Dutch heavy rockers WITHIN TEMPTATION have canceled their appearance at a Lebanese music festival in solidarity with a local band whose show was scrapped from the event under pressure from Christian groups.
WITHIN TEMPTATION said in a statement: "As you know, we were scheduled to play the Byblos Festival in Lebanon on August 7th. We have found out that 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. Apart from the fact that Lebanese authorities at this moment are not able to provide artists the security to perform in peace, we have decided to cancel our show in Byblos in solidarity with Mashrou' Leila and in support of tolerance, freedom of speech and expression.
"For you, our fans in Lebanon, it hurts to make this decision," the band continued. "Our last show in Lebanon is still very vivid in our minds and hearts. We are looking forward to better days on which we will return to you in Lebanon."
MASHROU' LEILA features an openly gay singer, and the band's lyrics tackle sectarianism, gender equality and homophobia.
Concert organizers said they were forced to cancel MASHROU' LEILA's appearance at the festival "to prevent bloodshed and maintain security and stability" after church leaders in Byblos said the band's songs violate "religious values."
Amnesty International has criticized Lebanese authorities for failing to protect MASHROU' LEILA, calling the decision "a devastating blow for the right to freedom of expression in the country and exposes the Lebanese authorities' abdication of their responsibility to ensure that the band was protected amid a mounting hate campaign. This is the direct result of the government's failure to take a strong stand against hatred and discrimination and to put in place the necessary measures to ensure the performance could go ahead," Amnesty International's Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf said.
"MASHROU' LEILA played the same songs at the same venue only three years ago. The fact that they are now unable to perform amidst calls of hatred and violence is an alarming indicator of the deterioration of the situation with regards to freedom of expression in the country," Maalouf added.
MASHROU' LEILA's "Ibn EL Leil" album reached No. 13 on the Billboard world album chart.