Lebanon and Kuwait prohibit ‘Barbie’ film

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The culture minister of Lebanon has taken steps to ban the movie “Barbie” from cinemas, citing concerns that it “promotes homosexuality” and goes against religious principles.

Minister Mohammad Mortada’s move is supported by the influential Shi’ite armed group Hezbollah, whose leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has escalated his rhetoric against the LGBT community. In a recent speech, Nasrallah referred to Islamic texts advocating severe punishments, including death, for offenders.

Mortada’s decision contends that the film encourages “homosexuality and sexual transformation” and goes against faith and morality by undermining the significance of the family unit.

Following Mortada’s decision, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi requested the censorship committee of General Security, which falls under the interior ministry’s purview and typically handles censorship decisions, to review the film and provide recommendations.

Later in the day, Kuwait followed Lebanon’s lead and announced a ban on “Barbie” as well as the supernatural horror movie “Talk to Me,” aiming to safeguard “public ethics and social traditions,” according to the state news agency.

Lebanon, often considered a relatively safe space for the LGBT community within the conservative Middle East, held its first Arab gay pride week in 2017. However, the issue has become more contentious recently. Mawlawi banned events that “promote sexual perversion” in Lebanon last year, a move believed to target LGBT-friendly gatherings.

In a speech last month, Nasrallah called on Lebanese authorities to combat materials he deemed as promoting homosexuality, urging their “banishment.” He asserted that homosexuality posed a significant threat to Lebanon and should be met with strong action, even proposing death as a penalty for homosexual acts.

Despite not explicitly mentioning the LGBT community, Lebanon’s cabinet urged citizens to uphold family values after a meeting with the Christian patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai on Tuesday.

Ayman Mhanna, the executive director of the non-profit Samir Kassir Foundation, described Mortada’s action as part of “a wave of bigotry.” He noted that this was part of a broader campaign uniting Hezbollah, the Christian far-right, and other religious leaders in a targeted effort against LGBT individuals.

Starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, the film follows Mattel Inc’s iconic doll on a journey into the real world. Since its release on July 21, the movie has surpassed $1 billion in worldwide box office sales.