NEWS
02/04/2019 14:56 BST

Soas University Reviews Gallery Named After Brunei As Gay Death Penalty Protests Mount

The law will come into effect on April 3.

A leading London university is “reviewing” one of its main buildings named after the Sultan of Brunei, amid concern over new laws the kingdom is set to introduce against gay people.

The School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) said it will “examine a range of areas” when considering the future of its Brunei gallery, which houses exhibitions from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

It comes ahead of strict Islamic laws to be introduced this week in the tiny south-east Asian country, including stoning people to death for gay sex and amputations for people found guilty of robbery.

Amid condemnation, students at the university in central London say the building should be renamed, while students at the University of Oxford have called for the Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, to have his honorary degree stripped.

The United Nations says the law “seriously breaches” human rights and says it is urging lawmakers to scrap the move.

Soas did not specify whether they are considering changing the name of the building, but said in a statement: “We are deeply concerned about the impact Brunei’s new law has on the SOAS community and fully understand the concerns that are being raised in relation to the name of our gallery and campus building.

“It is crucially important that all areas of our work, including philanthropy, are aligned with our values.”

It added: As a School we are vigorous in our support for LGBQT+ rights.

“We host major events such as the annual Queer Asia conference and we offer degree programmes that range from Queer Cinema to Gender and Sexuality and Queer Politics in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

“A review is currently underway of the gallery which will examine a range of areas.”

PA Images
The Sultan of Brunei meeting Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace last year. He was awarded an honorary knighthood in 1992.

A donation was made in 1995 by the Sultan to the school, a gift which was “received before any introduction of Sharia Law in that country”, a spokeswoman for Soas said.

He has “no role, influence or involvement in the policy or operation of the gallery or the wider School,” according to the statement.

The school said that philanthropic gifts received are considered in accordance with a due diligence procedure, guidelines which have been in place since 2011.

The University of Aberdeen is also reviewing the honorary doctorate it awarded the 72-year-old.

Homosexuality is a crime in the kingdom of 430,000 people, and those who cheat on their spouse could also be stoned to death under the new law, which will come into effect on Wednesday and apply only to Muslims.

The laws, as part of the country’s interpretation of Sharia Law, also introduce amputation of the hands or feet as punishment for robbery, according to an announcement by the country’s attorney general.

A statement from the country’s Prime Minister over the weekend read: “The Syariah law, apart from criminalising and deterring acts that are against the teaching of Islam, is also aims to educate, protect and respect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race.”

Celebrities including George Clooney and Elton John have called for a boycott of luxury hotels owned by Brunei after the new laws were announced.

The Dorchester on London’s exclusive Park Lane and The Beverly Hills hotel in Los Angeles are among the sites owned by the Sultan, who is worth $20 billion (£15 billion).