BEIRUT: A band set to play at the Byblos International Festival this week has canceled its concert “in solidarity” with Lebanese group Mashrou’ Leila.
Dutch metal band Within Temptation posted a statement on its Facebook page saying that “with a heavy heart” it had decided to cancel its show “in support of tolerance, freedom of speech and expression.”
The band said it had made the decision after learning that the festival organizers had dropped Mashrou’ Leila from their program.
On Wednesday, the festival’s committee said it was “forced to stop the Mashrou’ Leila concert set for Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, ... in order to prevent bloodshed and to maintain security and stability.
The action followed an acrimonious online campaign, including by a number of Christian groups, that called for the concert’s cancellation, criticizing the band’s songs as being “offensive to Christianity and Islam.” Some users even said that they would go so far as to stop the band playing “by force.”
Members of the band were also called in for questioning by security forces and removed at least two of songs from their official YouTube account under apparent pressure.
Twenty-three-year-old DJ Martin Garrix, who played a gig Saturday night, has remained silent on the issue on social media, as has Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the final act set to close the festival on Aug. 24.