European band pulls out of Lebanon festival in protest

Hamed Sinno

FILE – In this Thursday, April 28, 2016 file photo, Lebanese Hamed Sinno, second left, lead singer and song writer of the Lebanese group Mashrou’ Leila or “Leila’s Project” band, speaks during a press conference with his band musicians, in Beirut, Lebanon. A Lebanese band that supports gay rights has found itself at the center of a heated debate in Lebanon about freedom of expression. Church leaders and conservative politicians demand that a concert by Mashrou’ Leila in the coastal city of Byblos be canceled, setting off a storm of indignation on social media. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

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BEIRUT (AP) — European rock band Within Temptation says it is cancelling its concert at a Lebanese music festival in solidarity with a local group whose show was pulled from the program under pressure from Christian groups.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Within Temptation said Sunday they would withdraw from the Byblos International Festival in solidarity with Mashrou’ Leila and in support of tolerance and freedom of speech. It said Lebanese authorities have been unable to provide artists the security “to perform in peace.” Within Temptation was to perform Wednesday.

Concert organizers had said they were forced to cancel Mashrou’ Leila, a famous Lebanese band with an openly gay singer, after Christian groups called the band’s songs an insult to Christianity. Threats followed to stop the show by force.

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