Lebanon’s cultural minister announced that the film “Barbie” would be banned from the country’s cinemas because it “promoted homosexuality” and contradicted religious values.
Minister Mohammad Mortada is backed by Hezbollah, the powerful Shi’ite armed group whose leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has stepped up his rhetoric against the LGBT population, claiming it posed a “imminent danger” to Lebanon and should be “confronted.”
Mortada’s decision said the film was found to “promote homosexuality and sexual transformation” and “contradicts values of faith and morality” by diminishing the importance of the family unit.
He asked Lebanon’s General Security agency, which falls under the interior ministry and is traditionally responsible for censorship decisions in the country, to take the necessary action to prevent the film’s screening.
There was no immediate response from Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Lebanon was the first Arab country to hold a gay pride week in 2017 and has generally been seen as a safe haven for the LGBT community in the broadly conservative Middle East.
But the issue has come into sharper focus recently, sparking tensions. Mawlawi last year took a decision to ban events “promoting sexual perversion” in Lebanon, understood to refer to LGBT-friendly gatherings.
In a speech last month, Nasrallah called on Lebanese authorities to take action against materials he deemed to be promoting homosexuality, including by “banning” them.
And on Tuesday, Lebanon’s cabinet urged citizens to “cling” to family values following a meeting with the country’s top Christian cleric Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, although it did not mention the LGBT community specifically.
Ayman Mhanna, executive director at the non-profit civic Samir Kassir Foundation, told Reuters that Mortada’s move circumvented the usual censorship process in Lebanon amid “a wave of bigotry”.
“This is part of a broader campaign that is bringing together Hezbollah, the Christian far right, and other top religious leaders in a focused campaign against LGBT people,” Mhanna said.
Starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, the movie sends Mattel Inc’s (MAT.O) doll on an adventure into the real world. The film has topped $1 billion in box office ticket sales worldwide since its July 21 debut.