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''V.F.'' Reacts to Celebrity Protests Against The Sultan of Brunei

Written by Chief Editor.

A couple of months ago, Elton and David Furnish wrote about their opposition to  the Sharia law, championed by the Sultan of Brunei, who owns a number of prestigious properties.

Elton and his partner said: '' Soon we will be getting married in Britain, with our two gorgeous sons there to see their dads make a solemn commitment to each other. As we stand there at the aisle and look over at them, I know it will cross our minds that when we were their age, it would have been impossible for two men to even think of marriage. Indeed, gay people at that time were lucky to stay out of jail. In our lifetimes the world has changed in extraordinary ways, thanks to millions of gay men and women who took the tough, brave decision to come out, and millions more straight people who responded with compassion and love.

''So it's disturbing to realize that even as gay people are emerging blinking into the light all around us, across much of the world, other gay people are being pushed deeper into the darkness. We are in the middle of an extraordinary renewed crackdown on gay people, from Uganda to Russia to Iraq. It is all the more disturbing, then, to realize that one of the places we most love is owned by a man who is at the forefront of this renewed and horrifying homophobia.

''The Sultan of Brunei is the unelected ruler of his small East Asian country. He also owns the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Hotel Bel-Air, and the Dorchester Group of hotels. It recently emerged that in Brunei he is introducing a particularly extreme form of Shariah law -- one where gay people will be stoned to death.

''So if we lived in Brunei, as of next year, we wouldn't be getting married in front of our sons. We'd be getting beaten to death, with objects, by a mob arranged and authorized by the government.

''We have stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel for years, and its staff -- many of whom are gay -- have always treated us with great kindness and compassion. They have welcomed us and our children with big open arms. These men and women have served the Sultan loyally for years, and made him and his hotel run exceptionally well. I can't imagine how they feel today, to discover that their boss is making their sexuality punishable by death.''

The August issue of Vanity Fair alludes to this article. Writer Mark Seals suggests that the hotel's workers are being hurt more by Hollywood activists' boycott and protests than their employer.

And the magazine's editor, Graydon Carter, also addresses the issue, saying:

''The good people of Hollywood were thrown for a loop by the news this spring that the Sultan of Brunei had introduced Sharia law, the brutal Islamic penal code, in his tiny nation of roughly 416,000 on the island of Borneo. Sharia law features a litany of cruel punishments, ranging from jail time for not fasting during Ramadan to having a limb cut off for theft, to death by stoning for such crimes as adultery and sodomy. It’s a curiously prohibitive mandate for a leader who lives in a 1,788-room palace and whose brother was reported to have once had the largest harem in the world. And it’s perhaps even more curious that Hollywood took notice. The fact that it did has a lot to do with the sultan’s hotel business, the Dorchester Collection. Among its many iconic properties are the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, two of the most storied hotels in L.A., both of which Hollywood has been boycotting since the late spring. The protest has now spread to other hotels in the sultan’s illustrious collection, including the Dorchester, in London, and Le Meurice, in Paris. His opponents say they won’t return to the hotels until he sells them.

''One has to applaud the self-sacrifice Hollywood is making by giving up the Beverly HillsPolo Lounge, the hotel’s legendary service, and one of the great swimming pools in the Western world. The protest appears to be having an effect. Occupancy rates have plummeted across the Dorchester Collection properties. The protest is certainly having an effect on the glorious staffs at the Beverly Hills and the Bel-Air—famous for their discretion and expertise—many of whom have worked at the hotels for decades. Most of their salaries come in the form of tips, which have obviously dried up with the boycott, and as V.F. contributing editor Mark Seal writes in 'The Pink-and-Green Blues,' on page 108, they are angry, hurt, and fast going broke. With such Hollywood leaders as Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, and Jeffrey Katzenberg digging in their heels, I can’t imagine how this will end. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether the sultan is worried about the protest. Thanks to the oil reserves under his palace, he is so rich and possesses so many things that he could well have forgotten he owned the hotels until the reminder sparked by the boycott—the way you might remember an old jacket you haven’t worn for years.''

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