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Egypt’s Music Syndicate Bans Mashrou Leila Indefinitely

The decision came shortly after the Lebanese band’s performance at Cairo Festival City where the Gay Pride flag was raised by members of the audience.

The Egyptian Music Syndicate has banned Mashrou' Leila from performing any further concerts in the country for an unspecified period, according to Egypt Independent.

The ban came amidst the controversy that erupted in reaction to the appearance of rainbow-coloured flags among the crowds that attended the band’s concert at the Music Park Festival in Cairo Festival City last Friday.

Image source: Facebook/@RainbowEgyptOrg

It wasn't the first time the flag was raised during a Mashrou' Leila gig in Egypt, with the other time being during a performance at the American University in Cairo.

The flag is widely used across the world as a symbol of LGBTQ advocacy, and is frequently used in Gay Pride parades, as well as in protests that demand equal sexual freedom. Issues of LGBTQ rights remain a highly divisive topic in Egypt, where intolerance and persecution from both society and the state remain a daily reality for members of the community.

In a televised interview with Mahmoud Abdel Halim on Al Assema, the Deputy of the Syndicate of Music Professions, Reda Ragab, said that it isn’t the role of the syndicate to repress, but that they prevent music acts from publicly performing unusual art.

When a picture of the flags being raised surfaced on the internet, a storm swept across Egypt’s social media landscape, with one post in particular, by pro-LGBTQ rights page, Rainbow Egypt, attracting more than 2000 shares and almost 4000 comments so far. Predictably, most of the reactions have been negative and hate-fuelled.

Mashrou' Leila are known to openly express their political and social views through their lyrics, which are mostly at odds with widely accepted views across the Middle East, which resulted in them being banned in Jordan.

Homosexuality is widely seen as a 'bad choice' or an 'illness' in Egypt and the Middle East, with many viewing it as 'western mimicry' or a disease which needs to be cured. Homophobic attitudes and opinions are expressed casually, with many claiming it to be unnatural and blasphemous. The stance is widely defended behind the guise of religion, where the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Holy Quran is widely cited as a justification for homophobia.

Last year, Egypt’s grand mufti, Shawki Allam, told German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, that while homosexuality is wrong in Islam, it is still unacceptable to harm those who deviate from the heterosexual norm, claiming that their lives are still sacred.

“Even if we see homosexuality as a religious sin, that doesn’t give anyone the right to injure someone else…Every person is equally sacrosanct,” he said.

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