US television star Jay Leno has joined a growing list of celebrities vowing to boycott the Dorchester Collection, a luxury hotel chain linked to Brunei’s sultan, after he introduced the first phase of a controversial Islamic penal code last month.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced last Wednesday that he would continue with further implementation of the law that will eventually include tough penalties such as death by stoning.
Former late-night talk show host Leno, speaking at a small protest outside the sultan-owned Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles on Tuesday, said: “What is this, Berlin, 1933? This doesn’t seem far off what happened in the Holocaust.
“Come on people, it’s 2014. Evil flourishes when good people do nothing.”
Virgin group founder Richard Branson said at the weekend that Virgin employees would not stay at the exclusive hotel chain, which includes The Dorchester in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel, the AFP news agency reported.
“No Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights,” the British billionaire posted on Twitter.
Others who have called for a boycott include comedian Stephen Fry, TV host Sharon Osbourne and comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
Late next year, punishments such as death by stoning for offences including sodomy and adultery will be introduced.
The US group Feminist Majority Foundation said it had also pulled its annual Global Women’s Rights Awards, co-chaired by Jay and wife Mavis Leno, from the Beverly Hills Hotel in protest.
The Dorchester Collection is reportedly owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, a sovereign wealth fund which comes under the oil-rich sultanate’s Ministry of Finance.
The sultan’s decision has sparked rare domestic criticism of the fabulously wealthy ruler on the Muslim-majority country’s active social media, and international condemnation, including from the UN’s human rights office.
But the sultan has defended the implementation of the law, meant to shore up Islam and guard the Southeast Asian country against outside influences.
Brunei government officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The Dorchester Collection also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.