Lebanese authorities have shut down a Beirut nightclub and condemned its owners as “stupid” after videos circulated of a song that mixed verses from the Quran playing at the popular party spot.
Jamal Itani, the mayor of Beirut, confirmed the closure of The Gärten to The National. The city's governor, Ziad Chebib, opened an investigation into the video on Saturday and he has now confirmed the use of religious lyrics in the club.
Mr Chebib’s probe found that “they have been using within the music...citings of the Quran and this is something not acceptable,” Mr Itani said, adding that the mayor also found that it had been operating without a permit for the year.
A Beirut Municipality statement said the decision was made after it was found that the club was “unlicensed" and was "broadcasting musical programs" that were disrespectful to “religious beliefs" and practices in the country. It did not say how long the club would remain shut.
“It’s a stupid mistake,” he continued. “I think the owners regret it. It might not have been intentional but the damage has been done”.
It remains unclear how long the nightclub will be shut for.
Lebanese society encompasses many different faiths and sects, from Druze to Christian and Muslim. Around 52 per cent of the country’s population adhere to either Shia or Sunni Islamic denominations. The use of the Islamic readings would have been offensive to many.
“Beirut and Lebanon has a special situation where we have both our religions and our society,” said the mayor.
“Our freedom of speech we all respect, we respect freedom of expression,” he continued. “But the situation is very sensitive and you cannot just ignore the sensitivities of other religions, particularly during Ramadan”.
One of the owners of Gärten did not respond to a request for comment but the club issued a short statement on Facebook that did not elaborate on the incident.
“We regret to inform you that The Gärten will be closed tonight. We appreciate the online support and love you’ve shared with us and we will keep you updated soon,” it read.
The song and the nightclub’s subsequent closure immediately sparked a mixed reaction on social media, with many criticising the club’s owners.
“Glad you are closed. What you guys did is disgusting and you should never be in business again,” one wrote.
Another was similarly scathing: “What happened in Gärten is full disrespect to not just the Islamic religion, it’s a disrespect for all religions.”
Others just issued bemusement at the decision to the play the song. "So you gonna play religious quranic verses in a religion-driven country and expect no backlash?” asked a Beiruti on Twitter.
Some supporters offered well wishes and hopes that the club would recover from the incident.
“Yalla soon you will be back better and better,” one said.
In April 2017, Tunisian authorities shut down a nightclub after a DJ was shown spinning a dance remix of the call to prayer.
Footage showed attendees of the Orbit festival, a techno event, dancing to the song in the northeastern town of Nabeul.
The club that was hosting the festival was shuttered and the manager detained for “violation against good morals and public outrage against modesty,” Mnaouar Ouertani, governor of Nabeul, said at the time.
Both Lebanon and Tunisia are Muslim-majority countries and many of its citizens observe the call to prayer, praying five times a day at the beckoning of their mosque’s loudspeaker.