West Hollywood’s James Duke Mason is organizing a demonstration across from the Beverly Hills Hotel on Saturday to call out the fact that its owner still allows the enforcement of Sharia law in Brunei, where he is sultan. The strict version of the Muslim Sharia law in Brunei allows the murder of gay and lesbian people and brutal beatings of women who have abortions. Mason is a member of West Hollywood’s Gay and Lesbian Advisory Board.
“Two years after the boycott began, the Sultan of Brunei has still not repealed sharia law in his country,” Mason said in a post on Facebook. “The hotel’s powerful PR machine has tried to sell people on the idea that the boycott has ‘fizzled,’ but lets prove to them that we are stronger and more determined than ever!”
Among those attending the demonstration are state Assemblyman Richard Bloom, whose district includes West Hollywood, and former Speaker of the California State Assembly John Perez. It will take place between 3 and 5 p.m. at Will Rogers Park 9650 Sunset Blvd., in Beverly Hills, which is across Sunset from the hotel.
In May 2014 a variety of celebrities and activists including Jay Leno and his wife, Mavis, of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and staged a rally across Sunset Boulevard from the Beverly Hills Hotel to protest the implementation of Sharia law by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is the absolute ruler of Brunei. The laws implemented by Bolkiah calls for the flogging of women who have abortions and for stoning to death gay men and lesbians
Brunei is a small nation of 400,000 people with vast oil wealth. Its Brunei Investment Agency, which Bolkiah controls, owns the Dorchester Collection, a group of hotels that includes the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air.
Executives of the Dorchester Collection have argued that Brunei’s law has no effect on how they run their business and that a boycott of their hotels will hurt employees, who may lose their jobs. Those supporting the boycott argue that it may have a financial impact on the Sultan and is a way to publicize his decision to implement the brutal law.
The boycott quickly gained the support of celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Osbourne and prompted Virgin Airlines’ Richard Branson to bar his employees from patronizing Dorchester Group properties. The Beverly Hills City Council passed a resolution asking the Sultan to sell the hotel.
But over the past two years the boycott has lost some impact. Last year Russell Crowe, Sean Pitt, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were seen at the Beverly Hills Hotel according to Showbiz 411, a celebrity news site. In February 2015, Los Angeles Confidential magazine held an event at the hotel that was boycotted by John Legend, the singer-songwriter who was supposed to be one of the honorees. Heidi Shink, a leading West Hollywood lesbian figure and a candidate in the June 2015 race for a West Hollywood City Council seat, also was photographed with friends in the hotel’s Polo Lounge. Shink later apologized for patronizing that hotel.
This year Hollywood Reporter reported that Megan Ellison, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus have been seen at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It noted that Kim Kardashian and Russell Crowe never honored the boycott..
Mason wants to give the boycott a boost. “Join major elected officials, celebrities and gay rights organizations on October 15th to make your voice heard,” he said on Facebook. “Lets be loud and clear about the fact that the BOYCOTT IS NOT OVER until the Sultan either sells the hotel or changes the law!”
Duke an activist? For what? What has he changed in WEHO?
Give the boycott a boost or raise his political profile for the next election?