The Sultan of Brunei, who’s worth an estimated $20 billion and occupies an 1,800-room palace, has instituted draconian morality laws in his small country on the island of Borneo. The new penal code, based on Islamic Sharia law, will allow death by stoning for “same-sex activity,” among other offenses.
Here’s how it breaks down. Phase one, currently going into effect, mandates fines and jail terms for ‘indecent’ behavior, failure to attend Friday prayers, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Later this year, phase two will cover crimes such as theft and robbery, making them punishable by flogging and limb amputation. In late 2015, those committing sodomy or adultery will be subject to death by stoning.
Brunei is the first country in East Asia to adopt Sharia law, which has been thoroughly condemned by the UN. And it’s the first time in over 50 years that Brunei will practice the death penalty.
Here’s the thing. The 67-year-old Sultan, an absolute ruler, owns ten luxury hotels across the West. Run by the Dorchester Collection, which is desperately trying to distance itself from the Sultan and his medieval mindset, these properties include the Beverly Hills Hotel, Hotel Bel-Air, 45 Park Lane (London), and the Plaza Athénée (Paris). And that makes him a prime target for boycotts, particularly in the entertainment capital of the world. In fact it’s hard to imagine a cause célèbre more ripe for press attention and mega-watt star crusading.
The Beverly Hills, which celebrated its centennial in 2012, is the first to see action taken against it. The Feminist Majority Foundation will relocate its annual Global Women’s Rights Awards, scheduled for May 5, to another hotel. At the same time, it will hold a demonstration at the Pink Palace, as The Beverly Hills is affectionately known. Something to do if your Met Gala invitation got lost in the mail.