Following the criminalization of homosexuality, adultery and other activities prohibited under the strict Islamic code of conduct aka Sharia law in Brunei, protesters gathered around the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, calling on the United States City Council to issue a formal condemnation.
The two luxury hotels are owned by the Brunei government, which became the first East Asian country to impose the Sharia law under the orders of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
Big Hollywood celebrities such as Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Branson and Sharon Osbourne added their voices to the protest, urging visitors to stay away from both the establishments in Los Angeles.
"The Beverly Hills Hotel is like the Clippers; the Sultan of Brunei is like Donald Sterling," Leno was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times while attending at one of the rallies with his wife Mavis. "Does that make it clear?"
The anti-Sharia and pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists stated that they didn’t want the U.S. to support a country whose ruler legalized the stoning of females and persecution of gays.
It seems the Sultan of Brunei would have to sever its ties to Hollywood if he has decided to enforce the austere version of Islamic law.
But who exactly is Hassanal Bolkiah? Is he an extremist like Osama bin Laden or is he more like the Arab rulers of the Gulf States?
Let’s try to find out:
To kick off this discussion, first it’s important to know that Brunei is a sovereign state that borders Malaysia in East Asia and gained independence from the British in 1984.
Bolkiah was born on 15 July 1946 to Omar Ali Saifuddien III and Pengiran Anak Damit.
His full name is Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien.
The Sultan received his early education at Victoria Institution, which is one of the best non-residential schools in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Bolkiah later attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom.
He has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, like his father, who abdicated the throne for his son in 1967.
Being the sultan of Brunei, which is ranked as world’s fifth wealthiest nation due to its extensive petroleum and natural gas fields, Blokiah, maintains a pretty expensive taste in cars. He is rumored to have over 7,000 automobiles, most of which are high-performance vehicles such as Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari, Bugatti, and Rolls-Royce.
In fact, Guinness World Records claims the sultan is believed to have a private collection of around 500 Rolls-Royces - the largest of its kind in the world.
He has a net worth of $20 billion, which automatically makes him one of the richest men alive on this planet. It also explains why his official residence, the Istana Nurul Iman palace, is the biggest palace in the world with almost 1,800 rooms.
Apart from his present wife Pengiran Anak Saleha, Bolkiah married Hajah Mariam, a former stewardess for the national carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines and Azrinaz Mazhar, who was a Malaysian television presenter and 33 years younger than the Sultan. Both the ladies were divorced and stripped of all titles, honors, and monthly allowances.
Although the sultan has criminalized adultery in the country’s newly adopted law, former escort Jillian Lauren wrote for the Daily Beast that she was a mistress of his brother Jefri Bolkiah —who ‘gave’ her as a gift to the sultan.
“And in just one night, we committed at least two offenses under his newly implemented penal code,” Lauren states.
Considering his early education, knighthood and exotic interests in women and cars, it looks like Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah may not be an extremist Muslim like bin Laden after all.
So, is he one of those hypocritical Middle Eastern rulers, who do the exact opposite of what they preach to their people?