Hollywood is reacting swiftly to the harsh sharia laws enacted in Brunei by cancelling major events at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency.
On Monday, Jay and Mavis Leno joined the Feminist Majority Foundation at a rally across the street from the hotel to demand that Brunei be excluded from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Already the 2015 pre-Oscar party thrown by the Motion Picture Television Fund has been withdrawn from the storied 101-year old hotel, and the Feminist Majority Foundation announced last week that it is pulling its annual Global Women’s Rights Awards.
The Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs is also moving Tuesday’s Impact Awards to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and nonprofit organization Teen Line is moving its upcoming tribute to Sony’s Amy Pascal out of the hotel.
Leno said that a boycott of the hotel would harm the employees, and that most employees were probably unaware of the Sultan’s adoption of sharai law. However, with major events dropping out, and Virgin Airlines’ Richard Branson saying no one in the Virgin family would stay at Dorchester-owned properties, it is tantamount to a boycott.
Last week the Sultan of Brunei, who is worth approximately $20 billion and rules the tiny Pacific Island nation, announced Phase One of the implementation of sharia law. According to the Brunei Times:
The first phase of the Order covers general offences set by the state, including disrespecting the month of Ramadhan and not performing Friday prayers. The general offences are punishable by fines, imprisonment or both.
Corporal punishment such as whipping and amputation of limbs for crimes such as theft will not be enforced until the second phase. The death penalty will come into force in the third phase.
The third phase of sharia law includes such penalties as death by stoning for adultery (by women) and same-sex acts. Saudi Arabia, another United States’ trade partner which owns hotels in the Los Angeles area also enforces sharia law.
In an interview with Variety, Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection (parent company of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air)
cited the company’s code of conduct, endorsed by the owners, that is “absolutely about equality and respect for everyone.” He said that the boycott risked having the effect of hurting the region’s economy as well as the employees. The collection’s two Los Angeles properties employ about 1,000 people, he said, and about $19 million is reinvested in the local economy each year.
Cowdray also told Variety the Sultan is not the boss of him — rather Cowdray “reports to the investment agency’s board of directors” and that the Dorchester chain will not be issuing a condemnation of Brunei’s laws. He also got kinda pissy about Richard Branson tweeting that neither the airline mogul, nor anyone in the Virgin family will stay at Dorchester hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights.
Cowdray told Variety he thought Branson’s tweet was “very unprofessional from a person of his stature. I don’t know why he chose to make that statement, particularly considering he has an airline that flies to the Middle East. He has hotels in Morocco. He flies to Dubai. He flies to Nigeria.”
Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse has proposed a resolution calling for Brunei to divest its stake in the hotel, though who knows how much weight that really carries