Following a global backlash and an outcry from celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres to boycott the nine luxury hotels he owns around the world, the Sultan of Brunei today pulled back on extreme laws against LGBTQ citizens of his country, extended a moratorium on a death penalty that would have permitted stoning for those convicted of engaging in gay sexual acts.
This came a month after Brunei instituted a strict new interpretation of Islamic laws, or Sharia. The stigma and persecution over homosexuality hasn’t been erased by any means, and so it seems unlikely that the boycott on the hotels will be lifted — it was already illegal in Brunei and laws on the books call for punishment with up to a decade sentence in prison.
In two guest columns written exclusively for Deadline that got wide play in media around the world, Clooney put a horrifying face on the potential made possible by the Syariah Penal Code Order rendered last month. He described the potential for unimaginable cruelty towards Brunei citizens who are only being themselves.
Wrote Clooney: “The 5th richest country in the world would take a young woman who is found to be gay, bury her up to her neck and have 25 men throw stones at her head until she is dead…”
Clooney called for the boycott against five-star hotels that in Los Angeles covered the historic Beverly Hills Hotel, and the Hotel Bel-Air.
The Sultan said on Sunday that the death penalty would not be enforced as part of the Syariah Penal Code Order. These were the sultan’s first comments on the issue, and reports said the sultan’s office went to the unusual step of releasing an English translation of his order. Clearly, it looks like the global outcry made a difference
There was some skepticism toward Clooney — notably by the likes of liberal host Bill Maher on his HBO show — that prompted Clooney to write a second column on Deadline that expressed the potential for such laws to be acted upon by neighboring countries.
Wrote Clooney: “For those that want to play “what-about-isms,” what about Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Somalia? There’s a long list. Well then, get to it. We all do what we can. For my part I spend the better part of my days chasing corruption and criminals led by some of the worst human rights violators in the world. And we do it by chasing their finances and confronting the establishments that they’re laundering money through. Believe me, no banker living in London wants to be outed as a human rights profiteer. Sunlight is the great disinfectant. Boycotts are sunlight.You can’t make the bad guys be good, but you can stop the good guys from being complicit.
Let me just paint you a picture: 20 years from now, you or your kids are asked, “Is it true that the guy that owned all of these great hotels was stoning gay people to death?” And you say “yes.” The next question will be, “And you still went there?”
Good for you, George Clooney and the rest of those who spoke up and moved their meetings to other hotels, despite the continuing inconvenience toward the staffs of those hotels.