The Jordanian Ministry of Interior has confirmed that it banned Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila from performing their concert set to take place on 29 April 2016 at the Roman Theatre in the country’s capital of Amman, reported CNN Arabic on 27 April 2016.
The popular band, whose music has been called the “soundtrack to the Arab Spring”, is not only controversial for its lyrical satirical wordplay and themes, but also because two of its members are openly gay.
News first emerged that the popular band had their concert cancelled after the band posted a statement on their Facebook page, which quickly went viral across social media networks.
Amman’s governor Khaled Abu Zaid called the attention to the ban a “fuss” and told CNN Arabic that the ministry never approved the concert in the first place and rejected the application. However, he also confirmed that the concert was banned “for religious and social causes since the topics and music of the band contradict with the values of Islam and Christianity”.
The band said the following in their statement:
“We have just been notified that our authorization to play has been withdrawn. The written justification officially provided is that the performance would have been at odds with what the Ministry of Tourism viewed as the “authenticity” of the site, despite the fact that we had the chance to perform for you at the same specific site three times in the past and had followed the same permit procedure before the competent authorities.”
Even though Abu Zaid said the band has never held any previous concerts in the country, minister of tourism and monuments Eisa Kamoh confirmed the band did play twice at the Roman Theatre in the past, including their most recent concert just eight months ago in August 2015 (see photo above).
In their statement, Mashrou’ Leila added that further to the official ban, they were “unofficially informed” they would never be allowed to play in the country because of their “political and religious beliefs and endorsement of gender equality and sexual freedom”.
The approval process
The event’s organizers, Citarra, began the approval process in January 2016, in the same manner as they had for the August 2015 concert, by sending in a written request to the Department of Antiquities, which referred the request to the governorate (part of the interior ministry) for security clearance. The organisers later received verbal approval from the Ministry of Interior to hold the concert and begin selling tickets, reported 7iber.
“We went ahead based on the authorities’ verbal approval because they gave us multiple confirmations and assurances, and because we already went through this experience during the previous concert we organized for the band last August,” Citarra director Amal Hammoudeh told 7iber.
That all changed on 25 April 2016 when the capital’s governorate denied the application, citing the “church’s objection” to one of the band’s song ‘Jinn’. Father Rifat Bader, Catholic Centre for Studies and Media director, told 7iber he was contacted by authorities about the band and told them the band’s songs were “immoral”, represented “a cultural decline at odds with the values of Jordanian societies”, and that “the problem is not simply in one line in a song, but in the entire concert”.
Israeli musician banned earlier in April 2016
This is the second time this month that government authorities have banned foreign artists from performing in the country.
In early April 2016 Israeli musician Nadav Dagon had to cancel his performance at a three-day music festival in the Wadi Rum desert for the official reason that concerts are banned in the desert due to an agreement with UNESCO. However, the concert was also cancelled because Dagon received several threats and Jordanian members of parliament drafted and signed a petition saying he was not welcome in the country due to him being Israeli.
Photo of band’s concert at the Roman Theatre in Amman in August 2015 from band’s Facebook page
» 7iber – 27 April 2016:
Values, traditions, and church objections: How Mashrou’ Leila was banned from performing in Amman
» CNN Arabic – 27 April 2016:
Jordanian Interior Ministry emphasizes the prevention of Mashrou’ Leila concert for religious and social reasons
» Al Bawaba – 27 April 2016:
Fury in Amman after Mashrou’ Leila banned
» ABC News – 27 April 2016:
Jordan bans Lebanese band, says songs contradict religion
» The New Arab – 27 April 2016:
Mashrou’ Leila banned from performing in Jordan
» Al Bawaba – 27 April 2016:
Jordan bans Mashrou’ Leila’s Amman concert – this is how our favourite Lebanese rockers responded
» Buzz Feed News – 26 April 2016:
People are pissed this LGBT-friendly band’s show got cancelled
» Freemuse.org – 20 April 2016:
Jordan: Concert by Israeli musician in Wadi Rum cancelled