News reached us a few days ago of some new legislation passed by the long-time 29th Sultan Of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, that permits the stoning of homosexuals and the amputation of thieves' limbs. These new laws have led to the announcements from various high-profile celebrities such as actor George Clooney (pictured above) to boycott Bolkiah's lavish hotels that include The Dorchester and The Beverly Hills, seen above. It does beg the question though - is it right and necessary to boycott such uptight establishments?
The new laws originate from the most extreme form of Sharia law, the moral code of the Islam faith. Punishments are divided up into two categories - 'Hadd' offences and 'Tazir' crimes. 'Hadd' are those where there are set consequences in place for the most serious offences and 'Tazir' are those where the punishment is left to the judge. Some examples of 'Hadd' offences include theft, which in Brunei is now punishable by amputation and adultery, which carries the harsh and inhumane penalty of death by stoning. Sharia law is enshrined in Islam's holy scriptures such as the Quran and it is not uncommon for these laws to be in place - it trickles right down to explain to Muslims how they live their lives and the rules that they follow.
Brunei first introduced Sharia law in 2014 with phases of crimes and punishments that primarily comprised of prison sentences and fines. Offences included pregnancy out of wedlock or failure to pray on Fridays. Under these new laws that were enforced yesterday, those found guilty of intimate homosexual acts can be stoned to death or whipped - this is a common occurrence in the most extreme cases of Sharia law. Even before 2014, homosexuality was illegal in Brunei and carried a ten year prison sentence with it. The laws are not just limited to the 420,000 citizens of the small Asian island, but also to foreigners and children too, even if they are not Muslims themselves.
In the wake of the legislation, famous celebrities such as George Clooney and Ellen DeGeneres have campaigned for the boycott of nine luxury hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, of which the Sultan is the head. DeGeneres herself called for people to 'rise up' against the establishments and greatly disregard those hotels as valid places to stay. Elton John also joined with Clooney to further condemn the new Bruneian legislation. Clooney was quoted as saying: "I've stayed at many of them," Mr. Clooney wrote, "because I hadn't done my homework and didn't know who owned them. Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens." Clooney raises the point that it is the responsibility of people to stop using these hotels as they are directly paying the Bruneian officials, including the Sultan himself, that are enforcing these laws.
These new laws has caused a spate of further action from major businesses such as the Australian division of Virgin, who have cancelled staff deals with Brunei's national airline that allowed staff to book discounted Royal Brunei flights for leisure purposes. Australia's second largest airline sent an internal memo to employees explaining that the new laws also apply to those who are in transit in "Brunei-registered aircraft and vessels" which only exacerbates this already large issue. An honorary degree presented to the Sultan from the University Of Aberdeen in 1995 is also being looked into by their Honorary Degrees Committee and could be revoked. In a statement, the university said that "The University of Aberdeen is inclusive and open to all. In light of this new information, this matter will be raised as a matter of urgency with the University's Honorary Degrees Committee."
In conclusion, it is indeed correct and right to boycott the Sultan's hotels due to this frankly inhumane legislation that has been allowed into the Bruneian judicial system. Penalties such as stoning for adultery are not uncommon in some Muslim countries and it is not just Brunei. It is up to activists and the public in general to stand up to the horrible treatment that literally anyone could receive as a result of these 'stronger Islamic teachings'. George Clooney and others have raised a rather interesting point here and it's one that everyone should follow, regardless of nationality, race, creed or culture.