Sultan of Brunei returns honorary Oxford degree after backlash over anti-gay laws

The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, has returned an honorary degree awarded by Britain’s Oxford University after international backlash for proposing the death penalty for gay sex.

Nearly 120,000 people have signed a petition calling on the University to rescind the honorary degree of civil law awarded in 1993 to the sultan.

“It is time that the University recognize that its refusal to take concrete action makes LGBTQ+ students and staff members feel that their institution will never prioritize their rights on a global scale,” the petition said.

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Oxford said the sultan decided to return the degree on May 6, while the University was reviewing its decision to award the honorary degree, although news of the decision was made public on Thursday.

“In the light of concerns about the new Penal Code in Brunei, the University opened a review of the decision to award an honorary degree to His Majesty The Sultan of Brunei,” Stephen Rouse, the head of university communications told Fox News in a statement.

“As part of the review process, the University wrote to notify the Sultan on 26 April 2019, asking for his views by 7 June 2019. Through a letter dated 6 May 2019, the Sultan replied with his decision to return the degree.”

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Brunei implemented Islamic criminal law to punish gay sex and adultery by stoning offenders to death on April 3rd.

In response to the country’s anti-gay policies under Sharia Law, celebrities, including George Clooney and Elton John, called for a boycott of swanky hotels owned by the southeast Asian leader, including the Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and the Dorchester in London.

The United Nations has called the laws “draconian” while the U.S. and several other countries have urged Brunei to halt its plans.

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Earlier this month, the sultan, who rules as head of state with full executive authority, said the death penalty would not be imposed in the implementation of the penal code changes, in an apparent attempt to curb the backlash.