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UK schools refuse to revoke honours given Sultan of Brunei

Student unions condemn country’s new penal code

Universities in the UK are facing increasing calls to rescind awards given to the Sultan of Brunei (pictured) after the country began implementing a new Islamic penal code that, in part, prescribes stoning as punishment for adultery and homosexuality. Credit: raredelights.com

Universities in the United Kingdom are facing increasing calls to rescind awards given to the Sultan of Brunei after the country began implementing a new Islamic penal code that, in part, prescribes stoning as punishment for adultery and homosexuality.

According to Pink News, Oxford University, the University of Aberdeen and Kings College London have all awarded Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah honorary doctorates but have so far rejected calls to revoke the honours. The Royal College of General Practitioners, which made the Sultan a companion of the college, has also signalled that it will not revoke the honour conferred in January 2013. Bolkiah also received an honorary knighthood from the Queen in 1992.

Pink News quotes Daniel Templeton, LGBTQ officer for the Oxford University Student Union, as saying that the university’s refusal to rescind the honour is “regrettable and shows a lack of regard for LGBTQ students.” A motion to condemn the decision and to ask for clarification is being considered.  

Brunei’s new penal code, which came into effect May 1, is being rolled out gradually. Offences that are penalized with fines and prison time are part of the first phase, corporal punishment will be enforced in the second phase, and the death penalty will be implemented in the third.

The United Nations, international human rights groups that include Amnesty International, and LGBT advocacy groups in Asia have condemned the law, which was first announced in October last year. At that time, Bolkiah characterized the measure as “a special guidance from Allah to us all,” adding that it is “now part of the great history of our nation.”

A number of gay rights groups have called for a boycott of hotel chains and properties owned by Bolkiah, while several celebrities are observing boycotts of Brunei-owned businesses.

Last month, CEO Christopher Cowdray defended the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, part of the Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection, which has been subject to the boycotts, saying that the company observes American and European laws, not those of Brunei, that he feels “totally unfairly picked on” and that the boycott serves only to hurt a local business.