A US university based in Qatar has cancelled a speech by the openly-gay singer Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila amid fears for student safety.
However, a spokesperson for the Northwestern University (NU-Q) in Qatar in the municipality of Ar-Rayyan in eastern Qatar claimed the cancellation was out of “safety concerns”.
According to local media, the lead singer of the Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila, who is openly gay, was scheduled to give a talk at the university about ‘media revolutions in the Middle East’.
However, the university announced its sudden cancellation after “mutually” agreeing with band members to move the talk to its campus in the city of Evanston in the US state of Illinois, the university’s home base.
University director of media relations Jon Yates told Al Jazeera: “The decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to several factors, including safety concerns for the band and our community.”
Yates added that the university is “firmly committed to academic freedom in all facets of our enterprise”.
Four-piece rock group Mashrou’ Leila are famous for referencing sexuality and religion in their lyrics while addressing contentious topics such as sectarianism, homophobia and gender equality.
Although they were not scheduled to perform, their talk on media revolutions in the Middle East has been cancelled by other festivals and events in the region in the past, according to reports.
Local media said there was an online backlash in Qatar calling for the talk to be cancelled with many people claiming the band and the university do not represent Qatari culture of Islamic values.
However, many university students also expressed their disappointment about the cancellation on social media, claiming the decision undermined freedom of speech.
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