Brunei boycott deepens amid growing backlash to anti-gay laws | World News

Pressure is mounting on the sultan of Brunei after new laws punishing homosexuality with stoning sparked international outrage.

Protests are taking place outside the Dorchester Hotel, one of the luxury venues owned by the state, later today – with celebrities urging fans to join them in a boycott.

The University of Aberdeen is considering revoking an honorary degree it bestowed on Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Meanwhile, several companies have announced they are cutting ties with businesses owned by the country.

Under new Islamic criminal laws, which apply to children and foreigners even if they are not Muslim, those found guilty of gay sex could be stoned to death or whipped.

Brunei is close to the Philippines and Malaysia. Pic: Google Maps

Those convicted of adultery also face stoning, while thieves risk having their right hand amputated on a first offence and their left foot on a second.

Brunei is a small, oil-rich monarchy on the island of Borneo. It is home to about 430,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Muslim.

Sultan Bolkiah, 72, is the world’s second-longest reigning prime minister and monarch.

The University of Aberdeen confirmed it is reviewing the LLD (doctor of laws) given to the sultan in 1995.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “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.”

The Dorchester is one of the hotels celebrities are urging people to boycott
The Dorchester is one of the hotels celebrities are urging people to boycott

King’s College London told Pink News they would be reviewing the degree it bestowed eight years ago.

However, Oxford University appears to be refusing to budge on the honorary degree it gave the sultan in 1993 – despite more than 50,000 people signing a petition asking the university to revoke it.

The Oxford Student reported that the university would not be rescinding the honour but shared the “international condemnation” against the laws.

STA Travel, a global travel company owned by a Swiss conglomerate, said it would no longer sell flights on Royal Brunei Airlines.

In a statement, the agency said: “We’ve taken this stance to add our voice to the calls on Brunei to reverse this change in the law and in support of LGBTQI people everywhere.”

Ellen DeGeneres has spoken out against the sultan
Ellen DeGeneres has spoken out against the sultan

Virgin Australia Airlines has ended an agreement with Royal Brunei Airlines which gave Virgin staff discounted flights.

Deutsche Bank has banned its staff from staying in the nine Dorchester Collection hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA).

Estate agent Knight Frank also said it would stop using the hotels.

The BIA has not commented.

George Clooney, Sir Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres are among those to have voiced opposition to the regime and called for a boycott of hotels owned by the sultan.

Three of them are in the UK and include the Dorchester Hotel in London and Coworth Park in Ascot.

Coworth is where Prince Harry stayed the night before his wedding to Meghan, now Duchess of Sussex.

A campaign on social media asking Transport for London to take down adverts for Brunei which have been spotted in some Underground stations prompted TfL to say it would remove them due to “great public sensitivity”.

The death penalties came as part of new sections of Brunei’s sharia penal code.

Sultan Hassanal introduced the code in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the country, but even before then, homosexuality was punishable by a jail term of up to 10 years.

The first stage of sharia law’s penal code includes fines or jail for offences such as pregnancy out of wedlock or failing to pray on Fridays.

George Clooney encouraged people to boycott the hotels
George Clooney encouraged people to boycott the hotels

The Sovereign Wealth Centre estimates that the BIA has $39bn (£29.9bn) in assets.

The Dorchester Collection appealed against the boycott, saying its values were “far removed from the politics of the ownership”.

The statement added: “We understand people’s anger and frustration but this is a political and religious issue that we don’t believe should be played out in our hotels and amongst our 3,630 employees.”

As well as the hotel group, the BIA owns about 4% of a digital tech venture capital firm Draper Espirit plc. Its chief executive Simon Cook said the company “naturally abhor” the laws in Brunei, but the shares were bought on the open market.

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