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article imageJay Leno latest to shun Brunei-owned hotels

By AFP     May 5, 2014 in World

US television star Jay Leno joined a growing list of celebrities vowing to boycott a luxury hotel chain linked to Brunei's sultan after he introduced a controversial Islamic penal code in his country.

Brunei's all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced last Wednesday that he would push ahead with the sharia 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, 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."

Comedian Jay Leno participates in a rally to protest draconian punishment of women and gay people an...
Comedian Jay Leno participates in a rally to protest draconian punishment of women and gay people announced by the Sultan of Brunei outside the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan, on May 5, 2014 in California
David Mcnew, Getty/AFP

Virgin group founder Richard Branson said on the weekend that Virgin employees would not stay at the exclusive Dorchester Collection hotel chain, which includes The Dorchester in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

"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 actor Stephen Fry, TV host Sharon Osbourne and comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

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 under the oil-rich sultanate's Ministry of Finance.

The sultan's move 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 on Monday. The Dorchester Collection also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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