In April 2014, the Beverly Hills Hotel and other properties operated by the Dorchester Collection — which is owned by Hassanal Bolkiah, the sultan of Brunei — were boycotted after Bolkiah began to incorporate Sharia law into his country's legal system. The addition of extremist religious-based legislation meant, among other acts of barbarism, that gay people would be stoned to death.
Public outrage ensued, and many celebrities and companies — including Anna Wintour and Condé Nast, Sharon Osbourne, and Lisa Vanderpump — vowed to shun the Beverly Hills Hotel in protest of the sultan and his draconian policies.
In 2019, the boycott of the hotel and other Dorchester properties, like the Hotel Bel Air, has been largely forgotten. Page Six declared it officially over in January 2018 in an article noting that actress Laura Dern and Architectural Digest Editor in Chief Amy Astley — from the Condé Nast family — had been spotted at the Beverly Hills Hotel, signaling a wind change from the media and entertainment industries.
However, now is not the time to forget the sins of the sultan. Next Wednesday, nearly five years after the boycott, Sharia law will go into full effect in Brunei.
This new penal code, which even applies to children, will include inhumane penalties. People who have sex with a person of the same gender and women who have sex outside of marriage can be stoned to death — and a thief will be punished by having a hand or foot amputated.
These punishments are part of new sections added to Brunei Darussalam Syariah Penal Code and approved by Bolkiah. They will go into effect April 3, according to a memo published on the website of Brunei's attorney general.
Amnesty International condemned the "vicious" new laws in a statement released Wednesday. “Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations," said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, the international human rights group's Brunei researcher.
“The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice," Chhoa-Howard added. "Some of the potential 'offences' should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender."
Punishments like stoning and amputation are considered torture and prohibited under international human rights law. "Brunei has signed but not yet ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," Amnesty noted in its release.
Ratification would be a start. But until Brunei abandons the implementation of Sharia law and the resulting violent persecution of marginalized people, allies of the LGBTQ community should steer clear of the Beverly Hills Hotel (and this list of other Dorchester properties) and the tyrannical man they fund.
DANIEL REYNOLDS is an editor at The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @dnlreynolds.