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Freedom of Expression: Let us not give in to violence!

The Mashrou’ Leila case
07/08/2019

Do not be fooled: the cancellation of Mashrou’ Leila’s August 9 concert under pressure from extremists is an attack on the rule of law and freedom of expression.

The Byblos International Festival announced last Tuesday that it took the decision to “prevent bloodshed and preserve security”, surrendering to an extremely violent campaign of demonization against the Lebanese rock band. Although the decision was made out of a feeling of responsibility that contrasts with the collective madness of the past few weeks, it is regrettable because it appears to be an expression of helplessness in the face of political and religious obscurantism.

We unequivocally assert our attachment to religious pluralism and our respect for the faith of every believer and for the freedom to be a non-believer. We defend these principles in a region where they are threatened more and more every single day. Regardless of our individual sensibilities and opinions about the objection raised against this band, we can only be outraged at the course of events that led to this decision.

We are outraged because, so far, the authorities have taken no action against the irresponsible party members and marginal groups that forcibly called for the event to be cancelled and incited violence, even at times calling for murder. Instead, judicial authorities summoned the band for questioning–not those responsible for the campaign of hatred–and decided not to cancel the event because the band had not violated the law.

We are outraged because, despite clearance from the judicial authorities, some religious officials insisted on imposing their own censorship, under the pretext that the group did not publicly make its mea culpa. Our laws do restrict the freedom of expression when it comes to religion. But nowhere does it say that religious authorities can stand in for judicial ones.

Finally, we are outraged because of the attitude of political parties and members of parliament who chose to withdraw into their individual sectarian communities. At a time when there has been a clear regression on individual freedoms and when the country is facing serious financial, security and social challenges, was it really necessary to give youth a new reason for despair?

Facing a situation where mob rule–fear in the face of reason–is imposing itself as de facto law and harming artistic freedom of expression and our country’s cultural luminance, we demand:

- the Lebanese government and its representatives, starting with the President of the Republic, the guardian of the Constitution, to draw the consequences of their powerlessness in this case. This implies they ensure that the judiciary should not allow, now or in the future, the misdeeds of hate mongers to go unpunished, regardless of their sectarian or political affiliation. The Ministry of Interior should also provide complete security for any authorized cultural event, this being the raison d’être that give the rule of law its credibility.

- political and religious leaders who called for, and obtained, the cancellation to remind their followers and partisans that their freedom to express their convictions cannot infringe on the limits of law, civility and tolerance.

- finally, and most importantly, our citizens of all faiths who share this outrage to answer this call and stay more vigilant than ever in the face of such abuses. It is our duty to make sure that our country remains true to its calling to be, as Pope John-Paul II said, “a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for the East and the West alike.”


The Editorial Team of L’Orient-Le Jour


The signatories

1. The writing staff of L'Orient-Jour

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2. Michel Eddé (CEO of OLJ, former president of the Foundation and the Maronite League, former minister)

3. Nayla de Freige (Managing Director of OLJ, President of the Baalbeck Festival)

4. Michel Hélou (Executive Director of OLJ)

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5. Michel-Antoine Abchi (architect)

6. Shirine Abdallah (activist)

7. Gaby Abdelnour (private investor)

8. Nada Abdel Samad (journalist)

9. Nada Abi Akl (journalist)

10. Elie Abouaoun (consultant)

11. Bassam Accaoui (chemist)

12. Nidal Achkar (artist)

13. Etel Adnan (artist)

14. Adonis (poet)

15. Georges Aftimos (doctor)

16. Misbah Ahdab (manager)

17. Rasha al-Ameer (researcher)

18. Ali el-Amine (journalist)

19. Asma Andraos (consultant)

20. Chadi Aoun (director, creator)

21. Philippe Aractingi (filmmaker)

22. Zeina Arida Bassil (museum director)

23. Nadim Asfar (artist)

24. Renée Asmar (President of the Lebanese Cenacle Foundation)

25. Wadih el-Asmar (activist)

26. Roger Assaf (playwright)

27. Antoine Atallah (architect)

28. Sahar al-Attar (Editor-in-Chief of Levant Trade)

29. Christiane Audi (President of the Audi Foundation)

30. Gérard Avedissian (director)

31. Akl Awit (journalist, writer)

32. Chawki Azouri (psychoanalyst)

33. Ayman Baalbaki (artist)

34. Dr. Mohammad Badaoui (university professor)

35. Joseph Bahout (university professor, researcher)

36. Hoda Barakat (writer)

37. Saleh Barakat (gallerist)

38. Karim Basbous (architect)

39. Dr. Noha Baz (pediatrician)

40. Patrick Baz (photographer)

41. Nadine Begdache (gallerist)

42. Gérard Bejjani (university professor, writer)

43. Hala Bejjani (Director of Kulluna Irada)

44. Abbas Beydoun (poet)

45. Karim Émile Bitar (professor at USJ)

46. Nada Boulos (gallerist)

47. Naji Boulos (advertising, consultant)

48. Lucien Bourjeily (director)

49. Jocelyne el-Boustany (writer, researcher)

50. Nora Boustani (journalist)

51. Rafic Boustani (writer, demographer)

52. Soha Bsat Boustani (consultant at the United Nations)

53. Fady Bustros (consultant)

54. Sabine Bustros (activist)

55. Brigitte Caland (Professor at AUB)

56. Rabih el-Chaer (consultant)

57. Sara Chahine Ammar (teacher)

58. Ali Chahrour (choreographer, dancer)

59. Jihad Chamas (activist)

60. Father Jad Chebli (s.j.)

61. Hanan el-Sheikh (writer)

62. Joanna Chevalier (Artistic Director of Beirut Art Fair)

63. Dr. Pamela Chrabieh (University Professor)

64. Jean-Claude Codsi (filmmaker)

65. David Corm (publisher)

66. Joseph Courbage (demographer)

67. Antoine Courban (university professor)

68. Fadlallah Dagher (architect)

69. Salim Dahdah (former CEO of Casino du Liban)

70. Pierre Daher (Director of LBCI)

71. Hadi Damien (activist)

72. Father Fadi Daou

73. Hind Darwich (publisher)

74. Ivan Debs (illustrator)

75. Nada Debs (creator)

76. Nasri Diab (university professor)

77. Dinah Diwan (architect, painter)

78. Georges Dorlian (university professor)

79. Jabbour Douaihy (writer)

80. Anne-Marie Eddé (Professor Emeritus at the Sorbonne)

81. Dominique Eddé (writer)

82. Maroun Edde (co-founder of Murex)

83. Salim Edde (co-founder of Murex)

84. Georges Eid (journalist)

85. Arwad Esper (artistic programmer)

86. Hala Fadel (managing partner of Leap Ventures)

87. Johnny Farah (designer)

88. Simone Fattal (artist)

89. Mona Fawaz (Professor at AUB)

90. Mona Fayad (University Professor)

91. Rached Fayed (journalist)

92. Jean-Pierre Frangié (lawyer)

93. Samer Frangié (university professor)

94. Michèle de Freige (journalist)

95. Monalisa Freiha (journalist)

96. Emma Gannagé (university professor)

97. Léna Gannagé (Associate of Law Schools)

98. Myrna Gannagé (psychologist)

99. Fady Gemayel (Telecom Engineer)

100. Father Ronney el-Gemayel (s.j., director of Cedrac-USJ)

101. Dima Germanos Besson (psychologist)

102. Marcel Ghanem (journalist)

103. Pascal Hachem (artist)

104. Abdallah Haddad (activist)

105. Antoine Haddad (university professor)

106. Diala Haddad (landscape architect)

107. Joumana Haddad (writer, activist)

108. Rana Haddad (architect)

109. Joanna Hadjithomas (artist)

110. Elie El-Hage (journalist)

111. Patricia Hakim (writer)

112. Hanane Hajj Ali (playwright)

113. Youssef Haïdar (architect)

114. Hiam Halawi (teacher)

115. Shady Hamadeh (Director of ESDU-AUB)

116. Lina Hamdane (activist)

117. Jamil Ali Hassan (entrepreneur)

118. Abdallah Hatoum (creator)

119. Mona Hatoum (artist)

120. Karina el-Helou (curator)

121. Khalil Helou (university professor, retired army General)

122. Madeleine Hélou (former vice-president of the Baalbeck Festival)

123. Philippe Hélou (co-founder of Murex)

124. Joseph el-Hourani (architect)

125. Alia Ibrahim (journalist)

126. Bélinda Ibrahim (publisher)

127. Hicham Jaber (director)

128. Abdul-Halim Jabr (architect, university professor)

129. Sana 'el-Jaq (journalist)

130. Khalil Joreige (artist)

131. Souheil Kach (teacher)

132. Elham Kallab (university professor)

133. Houda Kassatli (anthropologist, photographer)

134. Zeina Kassem (activist)

135. Jean-Pierre Katrib (activist)

136. Rabih Kayrouz (haute couture designer)

137. Naila Kettaneh-Kunigk (gallerist)

138. Father Gabriel Khairallah, (s.j., professor of literature at USJ and Sciences Po Paris)

139. Talal Khawaja (retired teacher)

Antoine Khoury Tawk (former head of municipality)

141. Eli Khoury (communication specialist)

142. Elias Khoury (writer)

143. Fouad el-Khoury (photographer, filmmaker)

144. Gisèle Khoury (journalist)

145. Liliane Khoury (professor at USJ)

146. Marwan el-Khoury (mathematician)

147. Melkar el-Khoury (activist)

148. Sheikh Michel el-Khoury (former governor of the BDL)

149. Rana Khoury (activist)

150. Imad Komayha (journalist)

151. Albert Kostanian (journalist)

152. Nadine Labaki (filmmaker)

153. Lynn Maalouf (researcher, activist)

154. Amal Makarem (journalist, writer)

155. Ziyad Makhoul (former editor of OLJ)

156. Georgia Makhlouf (writer)

157. Chibli Mallat (lawyer)

158. Janane Mallat (TV producer)

159. Mohammed Matar (lawyer)

160. Paul Matar (musicologist)

161. Saud al-Mawla (university professor)

162. Fadi Melhem (lawyer)

163. Sam Menassa (researcher)

164. Ayman Mhanna (Director of SKeyes NGO)

165. Nada Mhanna (activist)

166. Lameh Mikati (university professor)

167. Wajdi Mouawad (writer, playwright)

168. Alia Moubayed (economist)

169. Claude Moufarege (painter)

170. Roger Moukarzel (photographer)

171. Nadine Moussa (lawyer)

172. Kamal Mouzawak (contractor)

173. Malek Mroué (journalist)

174. Jyad Murr (media director and concert organizer)

175. Sami Nader (economist, political analyst)

176. Fouad Naïm (journalist, painter)

177. Alexandre Najjar (lawyer, writer)

178. Sobhia Najjar (journalist)

179. Nahida Nakad (former editor-in-chief of France 24)

180. Maya Nassar (writer)

181. Colette Naufal (Director of BIFF)

182. Joseph Nehme (lawyer)

183. Vatcheh Nourbatlian (university professor)

184. Hassan Ramadan (urologist)

185. Jean Riachi (CEO of FFA Private Bank)

186. Hassane Rifaï (lawyer)

187. Bahjat Rizk (lawyer and writer)

188. Wissam Saadé (journalist, university professor)

189. Dima Sadek (journalist)

190. Marc Saghié (journalist)

191. David Sahyoun (psychoanalyst)

192. Nasser Saïdi (former minister)

193. Oussama Salam (engineer, entrepreneur)

194. Ghassan Salhab (director)

195. Sana Salhab el-Khalil (teacher)

196. Tania Saleh (singer)

197. Paul Salem (President of the Middle East Institute)

198. Ahmad Salman (former general director of as-Safir)

199. Farès Sassine (writer)

200. Mona el-Sayegh (ceramist)

201. Ziad el-Sayegh (consultant)

202. Antoun Sehnaoui (Director of SGBL)

203. Nada Sehnaoui (artist)

204. Leila Shahid (sociologist, former ambassador)

205. Lokman Slim (researcher)

206. Monika B. Slim (researcher)

207. Salah Stétié (writer)

208. Nayla Tabbara (Vice President of the Adyan Foundation)

209. Ibrahim Tabet (writer)

210. Jad Tabet (President of the Order of Engineers and Architects)

211. Sary Tadros (blogger)

212. Yakzan el-Takki (journalist)

213. Nayla Tamraz (Professor at USJ)

214. Louis Tannoury (sommelier)

215. Alfred Tarazi (artist)

216. Talal Tohme (journalist)

217. Nadine Touma (writer)

218. Hala Wardé (architect)

219. Mohammad Wehbé (architect)

220. Fathi el-Yafi (university professor)

221. Gabriel Yared (musician)

222. Akram Zaatari (producer)

223. Talal Zeidan (architect)

224. Jihad el-Zein (journalist, writer)

225. Asmahan Zein (President of the LLWB)

226. Nada Zeineh (designer)

227. Zeina Zerbé (psychoanalyst)

228. Lamia Ziadé (designer, writer)


(This call was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 3rd of August)


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The original version :


Que l’on ne s’y trompe pas : l’annulation, sous la contrainte, du concert de Mashrou’ Leila, programmé le 9 août, représente une atteinte contre l’État de droit et la liberté d’expression.

Cédant à une campagne de diabolisation d’une violence inouïe contre le groupe de rock libanais, le Festival international de Byblos a annoncé mardi dernier avoir pris cette décision « afin d’éviter une effusion de sang et dans le but de préserver la sécurité » du public, selon ses termes. Bien que cette décision soit animée par un souci de responsabilité qui contraste avec la déraison collective de ces dernières semaines, nous ne pouvons que la regretter, tant elle résonne comme un aveu d’impuissance face à l’obscurantisme politique ou religieux.

Nous réaffirmons d’emblée notre attachement au pluralisme religieux et au respect de la foi de tout croyant, comme à la liberté de chacun de ne pas croire, dans une région où ces principes sont chaque jour un peu plus menacés. Cependant, et quelles que soient nos sensibilités et divergences d’appréciation sur les griefs à l’égard de ce groupe, nous ne pouvons qu’être indignés face à l’enchaînement des faits qui ont conduit à ce renoncement.

Indignés qu’aucune mesure n’ait été prise à ce jour par les autorités contre les cadres partisans irresponsables et groupuscules marginaux qui ont appelé à empêcher cet événement par la force et multiplié les incitations à la violence (allant parfois jusqu’aux appels au meurtre). Et ce alors même que des membres du groupe ont été très rapidement convoqués par les autorités judiciaires, lesquelles n’ont constaté aucune violation de la loi de leur part ni interdit l’événement.

Indignés qu’en dépit de ce quitus, certaines autorités religieuses ont persisté à céder à la tentation du mimétisme en matière de censure – notamment au prétexte que le groupe n’avait pas fait publiquement son mea culpa. Si notre droit borne effectivement la liberté d’expression, notamment en matière de religion, il n’a prévu nulle part cette substitution des autorités spirituelles au pouvoir judiciaire !

Indignés enfin par l’attitude des partis politiques et élus qui ont joué la surenchère du repli identitaire. Dans un contexte de régression manifeste des libertés individuelles et à l’heure où le pays fait face à de graves enjeux financiers, sécuritaires et sociaux, était-il avisé de donner ainsi à sa jeunesse une nouvelle raison de désespérer ?

À l’heure où ce coup de force de la logique de la peur contre la raison risque de s’imposer comme une jurisprudence de fait et de force portant atteinte à la liberté d’expression des artistes et au rayonnement culturel du pays, nous demandons :

– à l’État libanais et ses représentants, à commencer par le président de la République, gardien de la Constitution, de tirer pleinement les conséquences de leur impuissance dans cette affaire. Cela implique que la justice ne laisse pas impunis les méfaits des propagateurs de haine, aujourd’hui comme à l’avenir, et ce quelle que soit leur appartenance communautaire ou politique. Quant au ministère de l’Intérieur, il lui revient de garantir pleinement la sécurité de toute manifestation culturelle autorisée. Il en va de la raison d’être et de la crédibilité de l’État de droit ;

– aux responsables politiques et religieux qui ont réclamé et obtenu cette annulation de rappeler à leurs fidèles et partisans que la liberté d’expression de leurs convictions ne peut franchir les bornes de la loi, du civisme et de la tolérance ;

– enfin et surtout, à nos concitoyens de toutes obédiences qui partagent cette indignation de se joindre à cet appel et de demeurer plus que jamais vigilants face à de telles dérives. Il est de notre devoir à tous de veiller à ce que notre pays demeure fidèle à sa vocation, être « un message de liberté et un exemple de pluralisme pour l’Orient comme pour l’Occident » (Jean-Paul II).

La rédaction de L’Orient-Le Jour



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