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Sultan of Brunei's degree revoked by uni in gay death row

The University of Aberdeen has revoked the Sultan's honorary degree over his country's new laws.

Aberdeen: The Sultan of Brunei has had his honorary degree revoked.
Aberdeen: The Sultan of Brunei has had his honorary degree revoked. Wikimedia Commons by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brunei

A Scots university has revoked the Sultan of Brunei's honorary degree over his country's controversial new laws that include punishing gay sex by stoning offenders to death.

The University of Aberdeen has rescinded Hassanal Bolkiah's LLD (Doctor of Laws), which was awarded in 1995, following a review by its honorary degrees committee after the legislation provoked international outrage.

Under the new Islamic criminal laws in Brunei, which apply to children and foreigners even if they are not Muslim, those found guilty of gay sex could be stoned to death or whipped.

Adulterers risk death by stoning too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offence and a left foot on their second.

'The introduction by the Sultan of the new penal code is contrary to our strong commitment to the value of diversity and inclusion'
George Boyne, University of Aberdeen principal and vice-chancellor

The university's principal and vice-chancellor, George Boyne, sent an email to staff and students on Wednesday morning confirming the move.

A total of 67 members of the university's senate took part in the vote, with 63 in favour, three against and one abstained. 

He said: "As I am sure you will be aware there has been an international controversy since the Sultan of Brunei, in his role as head of state, introduced severely punitive anti-LGBT laws.

"The Sultan was awarded an honorary degree by our university in 1995. It was given at a time when the university had operated a successful exchange programme with its counterpart in Brunei, and when the Sultan had encouraged links between Brunei and Aberdeen due to his interest in our geology and petroleum engineering research.

"In light of recent developments, the university undertook a review of how this award now fits with our values.

"Today I can inform you that the honorary degree has been revoked following a vote by Senate, our academic body, which approved a recommendation from our Honorary Degrees Committee."

The university confirmed that 133 people sit on the Senate, and of those who voted 94% were in favour of revoking the degree.

Mr Boyne added: "Our internal process also included an opportunity for the Sultan to respond to the recommendation. The response from the Sultan was considered by the Senate and the Honorary Degrees Committee.

"While it is deeply regrettable to be in this position, which is unprecedented for the University of Aberdeen, I fully support the decision.

"The University of Aberdeen is proud of our foundational purpose of being open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others.

"The introduction by the Sultan of the new penal code is contrary to our strong commitment to the value of diversity and inclusion."

London: Calls have been made to boycott The Dorchester.
London: Calls have been made to boycott The Dorchester. dorchestercollection.com

Brunei's penalties have been provided for under new sections of its Shariah penal code.

Sultan Hassanal instituted the code in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the oil-rich monarchy of about 430,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Muslim.

Even before 2014, homosexuality was already punishable in Brunei by a jail term of up to ten years.

The first stage of the Shariah penal code included fines or jail for offences such as pregnancy out of wedlock or failing to pray on Fridays.

Celebrities including George Clooney, Sir Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres have voiced opposition and called for a boycott of nine hotels with ties to the sultan.

Three of those listed are in the UK, and include The Dorchester in London.

Brunei: STA Travel has stopped selling flights to the country.
Brunei: STA Travel has stopped selling flights to the country. Pixabay

A global travel company has also stopped selling flights on Brunei's national carrier.

STA Travel, which has stores in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee, announced that it will not sell bookings for Royal Brunei Airlines in support of calls to reverse the change.

It is offering refunds to customers who previously bought flights with the airline, but do not want to use them.

Royal Brunei Airlines operates the only non-stop flights between the UK and the small south-east Asian nation, with daily services between London Heathrow and Brunei International Airport.

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