(CNN) “It is because of our need that Allah the Almighty, in all his generosity, has created laws for us, so that we can utilise them to obtain justice,” declared Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in October 2013, when he first announced a three-part plan for the implementation of Sharia law in his tiny, wealthy and once oil-rich Kingdom of Brunei. Many of those who would essentially be sentenced to death by these laws considered fleeing, but some stayed in the hope that they would ultimately not come to pass. But as of Thursday, April 3, 2019, these ordinances, known as the Hudood laws, which implement stoning for adultery, make theft punishable by amputation and homosexuality punishable by death, are now in effect.
In 2013 and again now, this move has immersed the country’s small LGBTQ community in dread and ignited outrage in the West. Actor George Clooney, long a critic of the laws as human rights violations, argued for a complete boycott of the Dorchester Hotels, a luxury chain owned by the Sultan of Brunei. “Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens? Are we going to pay for these human rights violations?” Clooney demanded in an opinion article as he urged Hollywood’s elite to boycott the Sultan’s hotels. Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Jamie Lee Curtis and Billie Jean King have joined in calling for a boycott.
The answer is no. Even though boycott may have a limited impact on the $20 billion dollar fortune of a Sultan who is an absolute monarch, it is better than the meager nothing that would be its alternative. A sharper pinch could be delivered if the United States and its allies would consider halting foreign investment in the country, drying up a rich source of income on which Brunei is increasingly dependent. Those who wish to take action or speak out against these laws should also point out that Brunei is propping up an obsolete version of Sharia law as a means of covering up its political conundrums and failed efforts at economic diversification.