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Within Temptation cancel Lebanon gig after LGBTQ+ band forced from bill

(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

Within Temptation have cancelled a gig in Lebanon after a local band, featuring LGBTQ+ members, was forced from the bill following pressure from Christian groups.

Within Temptation had been set to perform with Lebanese group Mashrou' Leila at Byblos International Festival, but the band were removed from the bill when protestors began to vocally attack the group's billing, railing against the band's satyrical lyrics – which focus on politics, religion and sexuality – as well as the fact the band includes openly gay members. 

According to Amnesty International, the protests were organised by church leaders from the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Byblos, who issued a statement claiming the bands songs were "offensive to religious and humanitarian values and Christian beliefs".

Organisers claimed to have cancelled Mashrou' Leila's appearance as "a result of an organised campaign against the band and the Festival [which] goes well beyond the scope of the mission BIF is able to handle".

Within Temptation cancelled their appearance in solidarity with the band.

"As you know, we were scheduled to play the Byblos Festival in Lebanon on August 7th," the band said in a statement.

"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. 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."

Amnesty International have also commented on the incident, with Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf calling it "a devastating blow for the right to freedom of expression in the country."

"[It] exposes the Lebanese authorities' abdication of their responsibility to ensure that the band was protected amid a mounting hate campaign," she continued. 

"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.

"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."