Mashrou’ Leila Getting Banned In Jordan Is The Ultimate Validation Of Their Art

Mashrou' Leila - Jordan

Lebanon’s most prominent indie band Mashrou’ Leila, who were embarking on a tour to promote their most recent and exquisite album Ebn El Leil, had a concert planned for April 29th at Amman, Jordan’s Roman Hippodrome.

Today, only a few days prior to the concert, they were informed that their concert was canceled for, as “official” reasons cite “[their] performance would have been at odds with what the Ministry of Tourism viewed as the “authenticity” of the site.” In other, more hidden words, the Jordanian authorities view Mashrou’ Leila’s progressive message, by Arab standards at least, as an agenda they don’t want to advance on their territories. Obviously, that scary message is one of sexual equality transcending genders and orientations. How frightening.

Mashrou’ Leila issued a lengthy statement on their Facebook page which you can check here (link), of which I quote the following:

We denounce the systemic prosecution of voices of political dissent.
We denounce the systemic prosecution of advocates of sexual and religious freedom.
We denounce the censorship of artists anywhere in the world.
We apologize for having thus far failed at creating a cultural environment that allows our children to speak their minds. We believe whole-heartedly that we have only ever acted with the intention of making our world a more equal, and just place, even if “only through song.” We pledge to our audience that we will continue to place the integrity of our art as our foremost priority, and to never succumb to the pressure to compromise our message, or to waive our freedom to speak. We promise to continue to write out of love, and with the desire to spread love. We will fight, as we have always done, for our right to freely play our music and speak our mind.

The ironic thing is that Mashrou’ Leila had been allowed to perform in Jordan, at that specific site, before. Their Jordanian concerts serve as a vehicle for their fans in that country to watch them perform and, more importantly, for many Palestinians to make their way into Jordan in order to attend those concerts.

Not only have Mashrou’ Leila been stopped from holding this particular concert, but they’ve been banned from performing in all of Jordan at all times.

Of course, for the feisty Lebanese who will proclaim Jordan as a backwards-thinking land because of this, please remember how Zouk Mikhayel had a problem with Mashrou’ Leila performing there only two years ago simply because their lead singer Hamed Sinno was openly gay. Leila getting banned in Jordan is not a reflection of Jordan, but about the collective Arab culture that favors oppression over acceptance.

I have to wonder though, how is this reflective of a country whose king and queen proclaim to be champions of modernity and progression in a regressing region?

 

It’s a shame that Jordanian and Palestinian concert goers won’t get to watch the awesome Mashrou’ Leila in concert. I’m terribly sorry that Arab governments are so scared of music imbued with messages that challenge what they know, in a way that they can’t really fight because, ultimately, progression is inevitable whether it takes a year, ten or a hundred.

In being banned from ever performing in Jordan, Mashrou’ Leila are not just winners. They are triumphant.

In being banned, they’ve reached the echelons of those entities in the Arab world that challenge the status quo so profoundly with what they do that they’re shaking governments, systems and belief foundations to their core.

In being banned, Mashrou’ Leila have proven that their music is not just an assortment of notes strung together to construct a catchy phrase, but rather a message for Arab youth to rise above what they know, what they’ve been brought up to believe and accept that diversity in the heart of their own culture is to be embraced not feared. Today, Mashrou’ Leila are victorious because their message of no fear is causing governments to be afraid.

Mashrou’ Leila’s music will not be silenced if their concert is stopped. In them being forced to be silent, they’re louder than ever, and their music will gain more audiences than they’ve dreamed possible. Today, they are victorious. Today, they should be proud of the walls they’ve broken and of the boundaries they will break with every note they sing.

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This Website is Banned As Per The Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunications

Picture via @ohmyhappiness, click for full size.

Picture via @ohmyhappiness, click for full size.

Yesterday afternoon, Twitter user Raja Farah was busy researching late Lebanese politician Habib Pasha Saad when he stumbled on a page that wouldn’t open.

The notification as to why that particular website was unaccessible was a simple prompt: This website is banned as per the Lebanese ministry of Telecommunications. The above screenshot is what he got.

Using modern technology, which seems to have escaped our ministry of telecommunication, I managed to access the website in question. It turned out to be a directory of people: trying to build family trees, connect with relatives you may not know, etc. There was nothing more to it and definitely nothing less since it was pretty bland as it is. And yet, the website was banned. I tried to access it using a different ISP and the website would refuse to load even though my internet connection worked quite well.

katagogi.com

The page Mr. Farah was trying to access had nothing striking as well. I managed to procure the following screenshots of its content. As you can see, there’s simply nothing there.

Yesterday as well, it was revealed that another website was blocked as well, pertaining to the Mansour Labaki scandal. You can check out the details regarding it here. The Mansour Labaki website also has next to no shocking content. It provides next to nothing new on the case; it doesn’t give any new information, it doesn’t give any proof as to what the man did. It is, however, not accessible for anyone whose IP address is Lebanese.

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems we have more things to worry about when it comes to censorship in Lebanon than the banning of movies, books and possibly some music. It was only recently that they removed two movies out of the Beirut Film Festival because they didn’t fit with the moral code they want to enforce on all of us. But we now have another big brother watching over our heads in order to make sure we get “proper” exposure: our ministry of telecommunications.

I remember well when that same ministry made itself  the knight in shining armor fighting for my rights as a citizen to have my data remain private from security personnel who wanted to use it to fight terrorism. But there are other rights that pertain to me, as a citizen, which seem to be trampled on left and right. What right does anyone have to grant or restrict access to any sort of information to me? Isn’t this a violation to one of my fundamental rights as well?

How many websites already exist that we can’t access because someone out there decided that we had inadequate intellect to handle their content? What criteria is followed to decide that we, as a Lebanese population using our dismal and detrimental internet services, should not be allowed to access this website and not the other? What right does the minister of telecommunication, or whoever decides these things, have in order to decide whether a website should or should not be allowed to the general population?

They tell us day in day out about how our internet and telecom services have improved recently. They brag about 4G, about prices dropping and whatnot.  We have faster internet to access less and less websites. It starts with the ones I listed here, but who knows where this will go?

We have 4G and better 3G, supposedly (the reception in my hometown would beg to differ). But bringing in 4G phones into the country, or any phone that you want, for that matter is simply going to hell and back (link) with regulations upon regulations whose only purpose is to make your life as an irrelevant citizen harder while not making a dent in the business of those who’re supposedly targeted by these rules.

This isn’t about politics. I couldn’t care less who’s the current minister of telecom, who was before him or who might come after him. As I look at this, a clear pattern unfolds in front of me: the supposed advancements in the telecom sector we are having are coming at the expense of my personal freedoms as a consumer and as a citizen. The more we’re “advancing,” the more we crave for how things were before all this “improvement.” True advancement is giving people choices. It’s giving them full access to everything they need to formulate opinions. At this rate, I’d say take back your 4G and give me those choices for that is true advancement.

Beirut Hotel – A New Lebanese Movie Is Banned For Sexual Content

For my review of the movie, click here.

Seems like our story with censorship in Lebanon is far from being over or at least moderated somehow. Beirut Hotel, a new Lebanese feature film by director Danielle Arbid, which was scheduled for release in January 2012, has now been banned from being shown in Lebanon. Why?

Well, according the Censorship Committee in Lebanon’s General Security, the movie would “endanger Lebanon’s security.” And you know why? Because the movie apparently has sexual themes to it.

After all what can you expect from a committee that removed a scene featuring the burning of a Syrian flag from the movie Rue Huvelin or even modified a scene in Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now, although she wasn’t that displeased by that according to her interview with Kalem El Nes. They also banned the Iranian movie Green Days from being screened mostly because it was also banned in Iran for its anti-Islamic revolution sentiment. And lastly, Steven Spielberg’s name was hidden off TinTin’s movie poster because he’s a known Israel sympathiser.

Moreover, Darine Hamze, the leading actress in the movie, has a role as a devout religious person in a current TV series airing on a Lebanese TV station. Interviewers had asked her how she could possibly play both roles. It looks like the concept of acting has eluded them.

Watch the movie’s trailer here:

And in case our folks at the General Security don’t budge, we’ll have to hunt down the DVD for this.

I don’t know about you but I’m seriously sick of a committee deciding what I’m supposed to watch or in this case not watch. This is the 21st century. Such committees should not exist.

And just as a heads up for this committee, I personally hadn’t heard of this movie before today. So thank you for exposing it. Moreover, we, as Lebanese, didn’t invent sex. And if sex is now a danger to our security, then just ban it for everyone.

Lady Gaga Banned In Lebanon

It looks like the Lebanese General Security has decided to ban Lady Gaga’s new album, Born This Way, from being sold and distributed in Lebanon, as reported by The Sun.

The cause of the ban? They deemed the album “offensive to Christianity”. Even her previous single Judas was taken off Lebanese radio soon after it came out in April.

So Lebanon will be one of the few countries in the world where Born This Way will never chart. Bans of the sort (based on religious causes) are never revoked.

But is the ban this relevant? I don’t think so.

Why?

Simply because most Lebanese have either heard the album already or have very simple ways to purchase it, or listen to it: YouTube, illegal downloading, etc….

It’s the same thing with The DaVinci Code. Has anyone not read that book yet? We’ve all gotten a copy from abroad and read it.

As they say, what is forbidden is usually wanted, so this will only increase interest in Lady Gaga’s album in Lebanon. The proper step would have been to simply release the album and let people judge for themselves if they liked it or not. Sure, the album has Christian elements in it but that’s Lady Gaga’s way to deal with her being raised up in a strict Catholic fashion.

After all, it’s not like Lebanese are going to run in masses to purchase the album that will surely be way overpriced at Virgin Megastore outlets.