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New Laws in Brunei Lead to Boycott of Dorchester Collection HotelsMay 6, 2014 By: Jena Tesse Fox
In Southeastern Asia last week, the small but oil-rich nation of Brunei announced that it would implement an ultra-orthodox form of Islamic Shari‘a law. The decision has generated a call for boycotts of the state itself and for international businesses owned by the country, including the Dorchester Collection of high-end hotels.
According to Time.com, the new criminal code will allow courts to amputate the limbs of thieves, stone convicted adulterers and levy harsh punishments for abortions and homosexuality. The laws will also apply to non-Muslim residents, who make up an estimated third of the country’s population.
Hollywood celebrities like Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Fry have called for a boycott of the Dorchester Collection's hotels, which are owned by the state-run Brunei Investment Agency. At a small protest outside the sultan-owned Beverly Hills Hotel, Leno reportedly compared Brunei to Germany in the early 1930s: "This doesn't seem far off what happened in the Holocaust," the comedian said, according to the AFP. "Come on people, it's 2014. Evil flourishes when good people do nothing."
Beyond Hollywood, travel industry leaders are also encouraging the boycott. Virgin president Richard Branson tweeted "No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights." Cruise.co.uk, a British online cruise community, announced in a statement that it would also boycott the Dorchester Collection's hotels. “Nothing brings people together more than travel," said Seamus Conlon, managing director of the site. "This is one of the core philosophies of our business and something like this is anathema to that principal. As soon as we heard this news there was only ever one course of action we could take. Any guests asking to book one of these hotels will be politely told why we are unable to fulfil their request and offered a suitable alternative.
The boycott has extended to events as well: According to Bloomberg, nine entertainment industry-related events have been pulled from the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air. The bookings were each expected to draw at least 150 people, and three similar events at properties in Europe also were withdrawn, according to Dorchester Chief Executive Officer Christopher Cowdray.
The Hollywood Reporter reported that the OutGiving Conference, a meeting of LGBT donors beginning May 1, decided to move away from the Beverly Hills Hotel. The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which held its Respect Awards there in October, similarly said that they would not return. Fox News is reporting that The Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) Night Before Oscars event, a charity affair run by DreamWorks’ CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg that has been staged at the hotel since 2003, is also looking for a change of venue, and the teen suicide prevention charity Teen Line forfeited its $60,000 down payment to take the event elsewhere. The Hollywood Reporter also reportedly notified the Beverly Hills Hotel that it will not hold its annual Women in Entertainment breakfast there.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Global Women’s Rights Awards were scheduled for last at the Beverly Hills Hotel, but were moved to the nearby Hammer Museum. Jay Leno and his wife, Mavis, are co-chairs of the awards.