Oxford University to rethink degree given to Brunei sultan
LONDON (AP) — Dozens of people protested in London on Saturday against new Islamic laws in Brunei that punish gay sex and adultery by stoning offenders to death, while the University of Oxford said it will reconsider an honorary degree it awarded the sultan of Brunei following international outcry over the Southeast Asian nation’s draconian measures.
The university said in a statement it shared the “international revulsion” the laws induced and that it would reconsider a 1993 decision to confer the honorary degree of civil law by diploma to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
But Oxford stressed that no one had the right “summarily to rescind” the degree.
In central London, about 100 protesters raised the rainbow flag of the LGBT rights movement outside the Dorchester Hotel, which Brunei’s sultan owns. Celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres have supported a global boycott of the Dorchester and eight other luxury hotels in the U.S. and Europe tied to Hassanal.
Demonstrators chanted “shame on you,” and some broke through barriers to stand at the entrance of the hotel.
“I am married to a woman so it touches home,” said protester Ashleigh Gonsalves, who carried a rainbow umbrella. “It’s very important, it’s about lives, it doesn’t get more important than that.”
Labour Party lawmaker Emily Thornberry said Brunei should be “chucked out” of the Commonwealth group of nations if the laws are not revoked.
“Any hatred against anyone is hatred against all of us. Our fight is with the sultan of Brunei. Our fight is with this terrible law. We say no,” she said.
Hassanal introduced the penalties under new sections of Brunei’s Shariah Penal Code to boost the influence of Islam in the tiny oil-rich monarchy, where two-thirds of the population are Muslim. Under the new laws, those found guilty of gay sex can be stoned to death or whipped. Adulterers risk death by stoning, too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offense and a left foot on their second. The laws also apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim.
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