Hollywood Stars Call For Brunei Boycott Over Sharia Law

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Hollywood stars were the prominent protesters against the famous Beverly Hills Hotel that is owned by Brunei, a Southeast Asian country that has just begun to implement sharia law and its harsh punishments.

As Clarion Project previously reported, as of April 1, the first phase of sharia law went into effect in the country. Eventually, punishments including the stoning to death for the crimes of adultery, homosexuality and blasphemy and the amputation of limbs for theft will be implemented.

Jay Leno, who participated in the protest organized outside the hotel, said, “I’d like to think that all people are basically good and that when they realize that this is going on, hopefully, they will do something about it … I mean, it’s just … I don’t know. Berlin, 1933? Hello, does it seem that far off from what happened during the Holocaust?”

Other celebrities and business people are joining in the boycott, including comedians Stephen Fry and Ellen DeGeneres, and TV host Sharon Osbourne.

British billionaire Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin Group, said in a tweet: "No @virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights." 

On Tuesday, the city of Beverly Hills voted unanimously to pressure the government of Brunei to divest itself from the famous hotel.  Protesters have called for a boycott of the century-old establishment, frequented since its inception by Hollywood's elite.

Council members stopped short of calling for a city-sanctioned boycott.

In recent days, a number of organizations have cancelled events scheduled for the hotel. The Feminist Majority Foundation announced it had cancelled the Beverly Hills hotel as the venue for its annual Global Women's Rights Awards. The Motion Picture & Television Fund's annual "Night Before the Oscars" charity event has also cancelled its event at the hotel. 

Tensions at the city council meeting ran high between those outraged over human rights abuses inherent in sharia versus those interested in preserving the jobs the hotel generates for local workers.

Christopher Cowdray, the chief executive of the London-based Dorchester Collection of hotels owned by Brunei, said it was unjust to single out the Beverly Hills Hotel and its employees. "There are other hotel companies in this city that are owned by Saudi Arabia … you know, your shirt probably comes from a country which has human rights issues," said Cowdray.

"This is misguided," Robert Anderson, the great-grandson of the founder of the hotel, told Reuters after the vote. "We should be against human rights violations in all countries, not just the Brunei."

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said the U.S. ambassador in Brunei had privately relayed concerns to the Brunei government about implementing sharia law. Previously, State Dept. spokeswoman Jen Psaki had said, "We don't take a position on this specific effort," while acknowledging it was the right of citizens to institute a boycott.

The initial phase of sharia law in Brunei, instituted on April 1, begins with fines and imprisonment for violations of sharia. Press reports mentioned offenses such as “indecent behavior,” pregnancies outside of marriage, the preaching of religions besides Islam and not attending mandatory prayers on Fridays.

The second phase institutes physical punishments, such as cutting off hands and floggings for offenses like theft. The Guardian says this is to be implemented later this year, but Reuters says it will happen in 2015.

The third phase mandates executions, including stoning, for offenses like adultery, sodomy and blasphemy. Reports differ as to whether this starts in 2015 or in 2016.


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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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