Jordan Cancels Lebanese Indie Band's Concert Over Gay Frontman - for a Second Time

Interior Ministry declines to give reason, but Jordanian lawmakers object to lyrics and sexual orientation of Mashrou' Leila's lead singer

Hamed Sinno, center, the lead singer of Lebanese indie band Mashrou' Leila, performs with his band in Beirut, Lebanon, August 6, 2015.
Hamed Sinno, center, the lead singer of Lebanese indie band Mashrou' Leila, performs with his band in Beirut, Lebanon, August 6, 2015. Mohamed Azakir/REUTERS

Jordan has canceled a performance of the popular Lebanese indie band Mashrou' Leila, which was scheduled to take place in its capital Amman on June 27.

The country's Interior Ministry barred the group from performing after a petition from lawmakers of the Jordanian Parliament and a local media campaign that protested the concern, CNN reported.

Jordanian lawmaker Dima Tahboub told CNN that the sexual orientation of the band's lead singer, Hamed Sinno, was "exactly" the reason why she and other parliamentarians called on the Interior Ministry to cancel the show.

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The band's opinions and lyrics about sexuality were "against the religion and norms of the country," Tahboub was quoted as saying by CNN.

Jordan's Interior Minister Ghaleb Zubi issued a letter banning the performance last week, but didn't specify the reason behind the ban, the English-language Jordan Times reported. The concert organizers said that until the cancellation, the ministry had shown "full dedication" to the event.

Sinno, a 29-year-old Lebanese Muslim and Mashrou' Leila's openly gay frontman, has been active in championing LGBT rights in the region. The band was formed in 2008 at the American University of Beirut. Five years later, CNN called its music "the soundtrack to the Arab Spring."

The Amman concert was supposed to be part of the band's tour in the Middle East, Europe and America.

However, this is not the first time the indie band has caused controversy in Jordan. The concert Mashrou' Leila planned last April was also canceled days before it was supposed to take place. The reason given by the governor of Amman was that "some of the band’s songs contain lyrics that do not comply with the nature of Jordanian society," according to the Jordan Times. Before last year's cancellation, Mashrou' Leila had performed three times in Jordan.

The Jordanian government reversed its decision a day before the show was scheduled, but the band said it was too late to arrange the concert.

After last year's ban, Sinno noted that the decision also affects Palestinian fans, who travel to Jordan for a rare opportunity to see the band perform.

In a statement issued on Facebook last week, the band said its members were "disheartened" over the cancellation. It said the decision shows that "Jordanian authorities do not intend to separate Jordan from the fanatical conservatism that has contributed in making the region increasingly toxic over the last decade."

It also objected to those who said their music and lyrics go contrary to Jordanian traditions. "This is a misrepresentation of the people of Jordan, who we know are progressive supporters of human rights, and who respect intellectual and cultural pluralism," the statement said.