Now Reading
Aberdeen University rescinds the Sultan of Brunei’s honorary degree

Aberdeen University rescinds the Sultan of Brunei’s honorary degree

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Following weeks of pressure from student bodies, Aberdeen University has chosen to rescind the honorary doctorate awarded to the Sultan of Brunei.

Awarded in 1995, the principal and vice-chancellor of the Scottish college announced today (17 April) the institution has ‘revoked’ the degree. Making Aberdeen the first college to formally do so.

Fellow UK colleges University of Oxford and King’s College London University both awarded the Sultan. The ruler of Brunei legalized the stoning, lashing, and whipping of LGBTI people.

Oxford and King’s both announced last week it will review the degree, but no plans to rescind have been made.

What did Aberdeen say?

In an email sent to students and staff members, Principal George Boyne revealed the decision to rescind the degree.

‘Today I can inform you that the honorary degree has been revoked following a vote by Senate, our academic body, which approved a recommendations from our Honorary Degrees Committee.

‘Our internal process also included an opportunity for the Sultan to respond to the recommendation.

‘The response from the Sultan was considered by the Senate and the Honorary Degrees Committee.

‘While it is deeply regrettable to be in this position, which is unprecedented for the University of Aberdeen, I fully support the decision.

‘The introduction by the Sultan of the new Penal Code is contrary to our strong commitment tot he value of diversity and inclusion.’

Aberdeen LGBTIs ‘overjoyed’

A spokesperson of Aberdeen University LGBTQ+ told Gay Star News that the queer community is delighted.

‘We’re overjoyed to hear this news, and we appreciate the university’s understanding that this action was necessary in order to uphold their values of equality and inclusion.

‘We continue to express our solidarity towards our LGBT+ family in Brunei, and with protesters who continue the work of demonstrating how deplorable we find these laws.’

What about the other universities?

The University of Oxford said last week it will review an honorary degree it awarded to the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, in 1993.

Moreover, King’s said they ‘take very seriously the concerns raised by our community.’ Principal Ed Byrne shared these concerns, and is now reviewing the award.

Adding their voice

Aberdeen are the latest in a long line to boycott Brunei in the wake of their laws.

Moreover, travel agency STA Travel and Virgin Australia severed ties with the country’s national air carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines.

Similarly, London train network TfL did the same after ads for the airline were spotted by commuters.

Moreover, high-profile celebrities – from George Clooney to Dua Lipa – have spoken bluntly of their decisions to boycott all Brunei-owned hotel businesses.

Furthermore, the UN denounced the laws as ‘inhuman’ and ‘draconian.’

Background of Brunei

Rulers of Brunei have long enforced strictly traditional interpretations of Islamic teachings. The country, in Southeast Asia, operates under an absolute monarchy.

In other words, the head of state, the Sultan of Brunei, is also head of government. Royalty and lawmaking are one the same.

For example, under the current 51-year-long monarch Hassanal Bolkiah, the country banned alcohol and forbade the proliferation of non-Islamic faiths.

All a stark contrast to neighbouring Muslim-majority nations, such as Indonesia or Malaysia.

Things have been this way since 1962, when a left-leaning political party, Parti Rakyat Brunei, won local elections.

But the Sultan refused to recognize this, and the party staged a failed coup. As a result, Brunei has been under emergency rule ever since, granting the Sultan full executive decision-making power.

Sharia Penal Code: In three stages

Back in 2014, Bolkiah announced the Brunei governmental bloc would implement the Sharia Penal Code in three stages.

The first stage of legal reforms was no struggle to lawmakers, but its second and third stages experienced holdups.

However, the Bruneian Attorney General’s Chambers website officially posted plans to fast-track implementation of the SPC on 29 December 2018.

See also

Peter Tatchell slams Australian Prime Minister’s silence over Brunei

Royal Brunei Airlines dropped by STA Travel over LGBTI death penalty

UK Labour MP pleads government to suspend Brunei from the Commonwealth