Mashrou’ Leila and lead singer Hamed Sinno still set to perform at Zouk festival

A public figure and legal adviser in the small, largely Christian Lebanese city of Zouk Mikael is trying to stop a concert by a local, independent band whose lead singer is gay.

“We, the honourable free people in Zouk will not be silenced,” Fouad El Adem wrote on his Facebook page in July. “We will have our movement on the ground to stop this band from entering our town. Lebanon is a land for traditional families, not a land for faggots.”

By the time media watchdog Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor picked up on El Adem’s status, it had been liked by 120 of his followers, though Facebook removed the post shortly thereafter.

Undeterred, the band, Mashrou’ Leila, is still set to perform at the Zouk International Festival on Aug 2.

El Adem remains firm in his opposition. “Some faggots attacked me online today,” he wrote following Facebook’s removal of his first post. “You’re free to do whatever you want with your bodies, as long as you know that I’m disgusted by you, no, I’m repulsed by you.”

El Adem adds that he is “not attacking” the gay community, but rather blaming “the silly officials who allowed you to come to my dear town.”

Fast-forward to 2014. Hamed Sinno has gained international recognition. He has been featured on the cover of French gay magazine Têtu, and the band’s 2010 concert at the Lebanese Byblos International Festival — where Sinno waved the rainbow flag — was attended by then-Prime Minister Saad al-Harriri.

In 2012, the band headlined the Baalbeck International Festival, and the event was filmed and released as a live concert — a rare feat in the Arab world.

Sinno never had to come out of the closet because he was never in the closet. He might have become a sensation in the Arab world as the only openly gay Arab singer, but his work, and his band’s work, equally kept him in the spotlight with three acclaimed albums, all well-received by both fans and critics.