Jordan backtracks on Mashrou' Leila ban after uproar

Jordan backtracks on Mashrou' Leila ban after uproar
4 min read
29 April, 2016
Jordan's ban on Mashrou' Leila – supposedly due to the Lebanese group's association with LGBT issues – has been reversed, after mounting pressure from local activists.
Mashrou' Leila are one of the most popular band's in the Arab World [AFP]

A ban on Mashrou' Leila by the Jordanian government has been reversed, the band said on Thursday night, but the news came too late for the Lebanese rock group to perform a gig in the capital on Friday night.

Mashrou' Leila were due to hold a concert at Amman's Roman amphitheatre, but cancelled on April 26 after the ministry of tourism said the band's values were "incompatible" with the venue.

Unofficially, the band were informed that the band's endorsement of "gender equality and sexual freedom" were unsuited with the traditions and religions of Jordan.

Hamed Sinno, the group's lead singer, is openly gay, while the band have addressed some subjects considered taboo by conservative elements in the Jordan, including Muslim leaders, local Christian groups, and some MPs.

Now, Mashrou Leila say that Jordan has backtracked on its earlier ban.

"We would like to congratulate the Governor of Amman for taking a first step towards us, by sending us this letter of approval from the ministry of interior, that was signed with his extension of respect," the group stated on their Facebook page.

"However, the approval was sent too late for us to still be able to play the concert, as it was issued after the Ministry of Tourism was closed, meaning the organisers would not be able to possibly secure the venue in time, let alone reorganise the entire event in 24 hours."

The band said that the approval from the ministry does open up the possibility of future Mashrou' Leila concerts in the kingdom.

Many see the last-minute change of heart as intentional way of deflecting blame, but too late notice for the band to perform Friday night's concert.

"We hope this letter will be the first step towards securing the possibility of us playing in Jordan again in the near future, perhaps under more just conditions, even though we have no reason to know for sure at this point that this will be possible, as the approval is for tomorrow's impossible concert."

Jordan came under international media scrutiny for a decision to ban Friday's concert, and created uproar inside the kingdom from young fans and activists.

They took to social media to voice their concerns about this crackdown on freedom of expression.

Mashrou' Leila have performed at the same venue three times, which made the decision to bar the band from performing at the Roman amphitheatre in downtown Amman even more puzzling.

Sinno's mother was born in Jordan, and also spoke out against the decision.

Meanwhile, Mashrou Leila said concerts in the kingdom are particularly special to them as it is the only country where Palestinian fans can watch the band.

But conservative elements had rallied against the band and were determined to now allow the concert to go ahead.

"In statements made by official parties within the Jordanian Ministry of Interior and the clergymen, it was stated that the content of the music contradicts Islam, Christianity, and the values of the Jordanian society," the group said.

"It was also said that there are words in our songs that violate religions and are incompatible with the customs, traditions and values of Jordanian society. When they were asked for examples of these accusations, the charges were directed to a few words in the song Djin [spirit]."

The group has said that they hope to perform in Jordan again, and that the experience has taught the band an invaluable lesson.