The rainbow flag raised during Friday’s concert featuring Lebanese Indie rock band Mashrou Leila has stirred heated debate on social media, inspiring hope for some and the signalling of a larger space for freedom of expression in Egypt. Mashrou Leila, and Hamed Sinno (the band’s male lead) in particular, are no strangers to being seen as “controversial” for their views as their lyrics regularly discuss issues like homophobia, sexism, politics, religion, social justice, and sexual freedom.
While the band has many loyal fans around the world, they receive great backlash for speaking about such taboo subjects and challenge the status quo. The controversy resurfaced last weekend when a couple of rainbow flags were seen flying during their performances, rousing disagreements on LGBT rights in Egypt.
“I think this dispute shows how the LGBT community is growing stronger and more open, and at the same time it shows the amount of anger towards them, and lack of their acceptance in the community,” Nada Ismail, 24, said.
For Nermeen Ibrahim, staying silent on what she views as a sin is intolerable. “If I accept this act, it means I support or agree with what they are doing, which I don’t because the LGBT case in Islam is nonnegotiable. I can’t watch someone doing something wrong and say it’s not my problem,” she said.
Donia El Maghraby, 22, however, attended the concert and felt happy that people have a safe venue to express themselves and feel proud of who they are. “People are neither obligated nor expected to abide by what (other people) think is moral and right. Egypt has a long way to go before it starts conceding personal freedoms, but the least we can do is not make a fuss if a few people (in a very limited instance) decide to declare they’re simply different,” she said.
Salma El Saeed shared Donia’s views, adding that people took to social media right away expressing their disturbance because it’s one of the first places where the LGBT community has made its presence known. “People are in denial that LGBT exists in Egypt. Everybody needs to realize that they were only able to do that at this concert specifically because they felt it would be a safe space,” Salma added.