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Tue 6 May 2014 04:16 PM

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Celebrities boycott US hotel chain over Brunei links

Sultan last month introduced Islamic criminal law, making adultery and homosexuality punishable by death

Celebrities boycott US hotel chain over Brunei links
Comedian Jay Leno participates in a rally to protest draconian punishment of women and gay people announced by the Sultan of Brunei outside the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan. (Getty Images)

A string of high profile celebrities have launched a boycott of a California-based hotel chain over its links to the Sultan of Brunei, who last month introduced Islamic criminal law and made the drinking of alcohol by Muslims punishable by whipping and the death penalty for those engaging in homosexual or adulterous activities.

The Dorchester Collection hotel chain, which includes the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, is owned by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the ruler of the tiny former British protectorate of Brunei.

Last month, the sultanate became the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law. Under the new regulations, the 400,000 or so residents of the country dominated by Malay Muslims face conviction by Islamic courts and fines or jail terms for offences like pregnancy outside marriage, failure to perform Friday prayers, and propagating other religions.

A second phase comes into effect 12 months later covering offences for theft and alcohol consumption by Muslims, punishable by whipping and amputations.

The death penalty, including by stoning, will be introduced in the final phase a year later for offences including adultery, sodomy and insulting the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad.

The country’s new rules have spurred a backlash by a number of high profile celebrities and some high profile organisations have cancelled their plans to host events at the hotels in protest.

“No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights,” Virgin billionaire businessman Richard Branson said in a tweet this week.

“I won't be visiting the Hotel Bel-Air or the Beverly Hills Hotel until this is resolved,” said talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, while actor and TV host Stephen Fry, comedian Jay Leno and reality TV star Sharon Osbourne also encouraged guests to boycott the hotel chain.

This week, the Motion Picture Television Fund, which organises the Night Before celebrity fundraiser held each year the day before the Oscars Awards, announced it was boycotting the Beverly Hills Hotel and moving its event to another venue.

“Representatives of MPTF met with the leadership of the Dorchester Collection and executives from The Beverly Hills Hotel to convey our deep concern about the recent enactment of laws in Brunei that call for violent punishment, including amputation and death by stoning, against those engaging in same-sex activity and extramarital sexual relations, and those committing adultery,” MPTF chairman Bob Pisano, vice chairman Mark Fleischer, and CEO Bob Beitcher said in a joint statement issued to the Variety newspaper.

“We expressed very clearly that we cannot condone or tolerate these harsh and repressive laws and as a result support a business owned by the Sultan of Brunei or a Brunei sovereign fund associated with the government of Brunei.”

Entertainment trade publication The Hollywood Reporter also announced it was moving its annual Women in Entertainment breakfast, which last year honoured Oprah Winfrey, from the Beverly Hills Hotel to another venue.

"The recent despicable decisions by the Sultan of Brunei make it impossible for us to consider moving forward in any way with any hotel that is part of the Dorchester Collection," said Janice Min, co-president and chief creative officer of Guggenheim Media's Entertainment Group, which publishes The Hollywood Reporter.

"We have huge respect for the local staff and management of the Beverly Hills Hotel and would like to thank them for two decades of partnership. We hope one day to be able to work together again."

Addressing the boycott, Dorchester Collection CEO Christopher Cowdray said: "While we recognise people's concerns, we believe this boycott should not be directed to our hotels and dedicated employees. The economic impact of this not only affects our loyal team members but extends to the local community, our valued partners and suppliers."

RAH 5 years ago

Note to self: Add the Dorchester Collection to the list of approved hotels to stay at in support of the honorable Sultan of Brunei.

Waqas 5 years ago

It's strange that these celebrity have no problems in US - KSA relationships, as KSA also follow sharia (islamic) laws... and Brunai bothers them... that's plain hypocrisy