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King’s College London revoke degree from Sultan of Brunei

King’s College London revoke degree from Sultan of Brunei

The Sultan of Brunei - Hassanal Bolkiah

Following weeks of pressure from student bodies, King’s College London University has chosen to revoke the honorary doctorate awarded to the Sultan of Brunei.

The Council of King’s College London awarded the Sultan a degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, in 2011.

But following the Sultan’s infliction of a strict interpretation of the Shariah Penal Code, that included capital punishment for gay sex, the institution reviewed and revoked the degree.

What happened?

The ruler of Brunei legalized the stoning, lashing, and whipping of LGBTI people earlier this year.

Public outcry ensued, and pressure expended onto the college from faculty members, its LGBTI staff network, LGBTI student society, and students alike, to revoke the Sultan’s degree.

As a result, the Fellowships and Honorary Degrees Committee recommended the Council of King’s College London rescind the award. The council met on 3 June to discuss the possibility.

Today (6 June) the Committee issued a public statement outlining its call to revoke the nominal degree. This came after meetings within the council and a review.

A King’s College London spokesperson told Gay Star News: ‘The introduction of a new penal code in Brunei contradicts the values and freedoms we uphold at King’s and in light of this the King’s College London Council has decided, after a formal review process, to revoke the award in 2011 of the Doctor of Laws to His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei.’

‘A truly inclusive environment’

King’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network lead the charge by creating a petition, backed by more than 5,000 people, to take back the degree.

Josh Pullen, co-chair (community) of King’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network, told Gay Star News his delight at the news.

‘We feel that this is a clear demonstration of King’s acting on its promise to “Make the World a Better Place” and promoting a truly inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students and staff.’

Adding their voice

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

Significantly, after the Sultan u-turned on the law itself (though, many others, such as whipping for lesbian sex, remain).

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.

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