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Oxford University to review Brunei Sultan’s degree over LGBTI death penalty

Oxford University to review Brunei Sultan’s degree over LGBTI death penalty

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

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

In a statement last weekend (6 April) the university said that it ‘shares in the international revulsion’ of Brunei’s legislation.

The decision follows the Sultan’s imposing of a strict interpretation of the Shariah penal code. Of which includes the death penalty for LGBTI people.

Oxford University previously told Gay Star News last week that they would ‘not be rescinding’ the degree.

What happened?

Oxford awarded the Sultan an Honorary Degree of Civil Law in 1993.

But since the global outcry in the Sultan’s forcing of Bruneians to abide by his governmental bloc’s Shariah law, they announced they’re reviewing it.

‘The University of Oxford shares in the international revulsion of the new Penal Code in Brunei and strongly supports the United Nations’ call to stop the code coming into force,’ they said.

‘As an institution deeply committed to equality, diversity and individual rights we understand and share the concerns of our students and staff who have expressed abhorrence at recent developments in Brunei and would like to disassociate from them.’

Approved on a Committee, Council, and Congressional level, the institution reiterated that ‘at no point’ did they refuse to reconsider rescinding the degree.

Adding their voice

Oxford are the latest in a long line of companies and people to boycott Brunei in the wake of their laws.

University of Aberdeen told Gay Star News they, too, are reviewing their honorary doctorate to the Sultan.

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