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Hollywood Stars Not Labeled Islamophobes for Brunei Boycott

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Ellen DeGeneres (Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Ellen DeGeneres (Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

A roster of Hollywood stars are boycotting Brunei hotels over the Islamic country’s enactment of brutal sharia laws. That roster includes Ellen Degeneres, Luke Evans, Elton John, George Clooney and Adrienne Maloof.

Unlike in 2014, when Brunei rolled out the first phase of the laws and Hollywood stars  called for a boycott, in 2019, a wider group is banding together to stand up to this human rights abuse. This time, the opposition ironically includes social media titans like Twitter, which has in the past applied Pakistan’s blasphemy law on American and Canadian Twitter users. On Thursday, April 4th, 2019, Twitter deleted the profiles of eight hotel chains owned by the sultan of Brunei.

Increasingly, accusations of Islamophobia are used to silence critics, including (and especially) Muslims who are speaking out against sharia abuses. Yet interestingly, foreign and domestic agents that are part of the networks that are handsomely paid to shame and silence dissent across global community haven’t criticized celebrities as Islamophobic.

Why? Here are at least two reasons:

  • Hollywood hasn’t been accused of Islamophobia because of the influence celebrities carry
  • Celebrities are not as easily silenced or intimidated

For the rest of us, like this writer, the abuse is a daily experience. Not unlike medieval legal codes, being called an Islamophobe is the modern equivalent of tarring and feathering the accused, intended to shame and abuse a vocal critic into silence.

Labeling someone an Islamophobe has been the default hysterical reaction from Islamist camps that would like to see all critique of the Islamic faith figuratively stoned to death.

Every person and organization standing up to the sultan of Brunei and his edicts should be applauded and supported. Let’s hope we can band together like this in other areas of oppression justified under Islamic law and practice. Let’s work to understand how these sharia laws came to be and explore just how “Islamic” they are if at all.

For example, defenders of the sharia law that calls for execution of homosexuals or adulterers will point to the fact that Islamic law also requires multiple Muslim witnesses to prosecute such a crime, which makes consensual sex very difficult to prosecute.

So, as these sharia defenders would argue, it’s “really not that bad.” However, that technicality also makes it very difficult to prosecute rape cases. A better argument against this sharia law is that there is no mandate of death for homosexuality in the Quran, and the Quran is much higher on the pecking order than sharia laws. In fact, sharia is a collection of laws codified after the Quran.

A lot can be accomplished when we are free to speak out against oppression. Today we’re doing that. Tomorrow, I hope celebrities, universities, tech giants and other big “brands” will join Muslim Reformers whose life work is to wake up and do this every single day.

Let’s also hope we can do this in the future without being branded as Islamophobes by people who either

  • Don’t understand the issues
  • Can’t distinguish between critique and commentary versus hate
  • Are in the businesses of silencing dissenters who aren’t as well-protected or amplified as Hollywood celebrities

 

 

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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.