The global boycott of the Sultan of Brunei for instituting Islamic Sharia law — a draconian set of anti-women, anti-gay penal codes harking back to the Middle Ages — in his small oil-rich country is getting very, very real. And it’s stinging more than the Sultan.
On Friday, Kate Middleton secretly slipped in and out of Dorchester Hotel in London to attend her cousin’s wedding. In doing so, the Duchess of Cambridge rebuked the simmering global boycott of the ten luxury hotels in the Sultan-owned Dorchester Collection, which also includes the Beverly Hills Hotel, Le Meurice, and Plaza Athénée. On Saturday, Prince William and Prince Harry also broke the boycott by playing a charity polo match at Coworth Park, a country house hotel in Ascot that also counts among the Dorchester Collection. None of the British Royal Family has publicly joined the boycott.
This morning came news that the Sultan is canceling this year’s Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize, which the company claims is the “first award of its kind developed by a luxury hotel company.” The decision was made within hours of Dorchester learning of a planned action by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization — to bring attention to the fashion prize, as well as the boycott.
These events follow a slew of celebrities and business leaders who’ve publicly condemned the Sultan’s inhumane, brutal new laws, which allow for death by stoning for adulterers and those who engage in “same-sex activities,” flogging and severing of limbs for common thieves, and jail terms for ‘indecent’ behavior and failure to attend Friday prayers. Last week, Anna Wintour and Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive joined Richard Branson, Kering’s François-Henri Pinault, Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane in announcing they’re avoiding the Dorchester Collection’s global properties in protest.
Like the British Royal Family, the Sultan is unelected and staggeringly wealthy. In fact his net worth, estimated to be $20 billion, surpasses the Queen’s and his 1800-room palace dwarfs Buckingham Palace. The Sultan is also an obsessive collector of the world’s most expensive objects. It’s thought he owns more than 7,000 luxury cars, including nine McLaren F1s and 200 Ferraris, as well as hundreds of Bentleys and Rolls-Royces. Given the enormous disparity of wealth in his small Southeast Asian country and the punishment for robbery under Sharia law (amputation), he may want to guard his hands very carefully. No word yet what the Sharia punishment is for baring one’s rear on a windy day.