Sharia Law: Hollywood Protests Beverly Hills Hotel Owned by Sultan

Image: Sharia Law: Hollywood Protests Beverly Hills Hotel Owned by Sultan A security guard confronts demonstrators protesting draconian punishment of women and gay people announced by the Sultan of Brunei, May 5, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.

Wednesday, 07 May 2014 08:30 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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Ordinances in-line with Sharia Law were passed last year by the government of Brunei in southeast Asia, and Hollywood celebrities like Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres came out this week to protest the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

The Christian Science Monitor reported on Tuesday that the Beverly Hills City Council voted on a resolution condemning severe punishments like flogging, limb-severing, and stoning, and asking that the Sultan and Brunei divest from ownership of the hotel.

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The initial phase of the multi-part law took effect May 1, which "brings fines or jail for indecent behavior, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and failure to attend Friday prayers." Later this year, flogging and limb severing will be enforced against thieves, and in 2015 sodomites and adulterers will be subject to death by stoning.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world's richest men worth roughly $20 billion, said the laws are "a must" under Islam and a "firewall against globalization." He has ruled since 1967, and public criticism of his polices within the nation are rare.

Religion scholars were quick to point out that high-profile Westerners like Maria Shriver, Sharon Osborne, and Richard Branson may actually be counter-productive to the movement to stop the laws by the very nature of who they are and what they represent.

"Keep in mind that if the purpose of this law is to bolster his credibility [at home] by surrounding himself with the aura of religious legitimacy, then doing it in the face of Western outrage," shows his morals have not been compromised by the West, said Kecia Ali, associate professor of religion at Boston University.

Some point out that the boycotts come with real financial consequences too as many area organizations boycott the hotel by moving their events to other venues.

Catherine Warrick, a political scientist at Villanova University in Philadelphia, doubts that the financial impact is big enough, however.

"It's an oil- and natural-gas-producing country, and the sultan himself has an enormous personal fortune, so he's not particularly vulnerable," she said. 

Jillian Lauren, author of The New York Times bestseller "Some Girls: My Life in a Harem" claims that the laws are not only unjust, but that the sultan himself has engaged in at least two punishable offenses. How does she know? She assisted him in it, she wrote in a column for The Daily Beast. She claims to have been the one-time girlfriend of the Sultan's youngest brother, who "gave" her to the Sultan one night as a gift.

The law is supposed to only be applied to Brunei's Muslims — roughly two-thirds of the 420,000 population — to settle family disputes in a more uniform manner, and remain inapplicable to the nation's Buddhists, Christians and believers in indigenous religions.

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