NPR : News

Brunei's Shariah Law Spurs Boycott Of Beverly Hills Hotel

The Beverly Hills City Council voted last night [Tuesday] to ask the government of Brunei to divest itself of the famed Beverly Hills Hotel.

At issue: Shariah, or Islamic, law. Last week, Brunei, a tiny oil-rich kingdom in southeast Asia, adopted Shariah as part of its penal code. The law, which will be introduced in phases, makes abortion, adultery and gay relationships punishable by flogging and stoning.

"The City of Beverly Hills strongly condemns the government of Brunei as well as other governments which engage in similar policies for adopting laws that impose extreme and inhumane penalties including execution by stoning, flogging and severing of limbs," a Beverly Hills City Council resolution said. "The City of Beverly Hills urges the government of Brunei to divest itself of the Beverly Hills Hotel and any other properties it may own in Beverly Hills."

Brunei owns the Beverly Hill Hotel as well as the nearby Hotel Bel-Air through the Brunei Investment Agency. Its new laws have sparked controversy and made the hotels a target of protests by celebrities, including Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, who have called for boycotts. Reuters reports:

"In the last few days, organizations have canceled events at the hotel, including the Motion Picture & Television Fund's annual "Night Before the Oscars" charity event and the Feminist Majority Foundation's annual Global Women's Rights Awards. Gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday called on the hotel's owner to stop promoting special services at the hotel for same-sex weddings, now legal in California."

But Christopher Cowdray, the hotel group's CEO, told The Los Angeles Times: "They won't stop the implementation of the new laws,", but rather would "only hurt the employees." He told the LA Times Brunei had no plans to sell the hotels.

The newspaper reports that the Beverly Hill Hotel employs about 600 people, and the Hotel Bel-Air roughly 400.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said the U.S. ambassador to Brunei "has relayed our concerns privately to the Government of Brunei."

Brunei, a former British colony, is ruled by an absolute monarch, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, who also happens to be one of the richest men in the world. Two-thirds of the country's approximately 400,000 people are Muslim. The new laws would extend to non-Muslims as well. Here's more from Britain's Independent newspaper:

"It is unclear precisely what is motivating the Sultan, who also serves as the country's prime minister and assumed the throne in 1967. But in a speech in February to mark the country's National Day holiday, he claimed the system of an absolute Islamic monarch acted as a 'strong and effective firewall' against the challenges of globalisation. He referred specifically to the internet.

"He claimed that there were those, both in and outside Brunei, which last year chaired the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), who had been challenging his plans and who wanted to see 'internal turmoil'. He added: 'These parties, it seems, have attempted to mock the king, the Islamic scholars and sharia. They are using the new media, such as blogs, WhatsApp and so on, which are not just accessed by locals but also by those overseas.'"

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, Aug. 3, 2015

You can hear female vocalists perform blues and bluegrass at two concerts this week.

WAMU 88.5

Farms, Coasts And Air Conditioning: What Climate Change Means For Virginia

Climate change presents obstacles for just about everywhere in the United States — but rising temperatures are expected to be felt keenly in a number of Virginia's important economic areas.


Obama To Detail Tougher Plan To Fight Climate Change

President Obama will unveil climate change regulations Monday, expected to set tougher limits on coal than previously proposed. NPR's Scott Horsley previews the announcement with host Rachel Martin.

Despite Host Controversy, Amazon Takes A Chance On 'Top Gear'

The trio that made Top Gear the world's biggest car show will return to the small screen in a new show for Amazon Prime. The BBC canned one of its hosts last year after a fight with a producer.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.