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Aberdeen University revokes Sultan of Brunei's honorary degree over anti-gay laws


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The University of Aberdeen has revoked the Sultan of Brunei's honorary degree after he approved new laws implementing the death penalty as a punishment for gay sex and adultery.

Image credit: Aberdeen University, King's College by Isaxen via Flickr

Despite homosexuality already being illegal in Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah publically stated that he wanted to see “Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger."

In 1995, the Sultan received an honorary degree from the University of Aberdeen following a successful exchange programme between the university and its Brunei equivalent.

In a statement, Aberdeen University explained the accolade 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.”

However, since the advent of these anti-LGBT laws, the university has officially revoked the Sultan’s honorary degree.

Principle and Vice-Chancellor George Boyne confirmed the move after the Senate and academic body 'voted in favour' and 'approved the recommendation from our Honorary Degree's Committee.'

He called the position “deeply regrettable” but one which he “fully support[s]”. 

Celebrities including Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres have pledged support for the LGBT community in Brunei by urging people to boycott hotels owned by Sultan Hassanal.

In a tweet, DeGeneres listed nine hotels owned by the Sultan including The Dorchester in London.

Students from other universities where the Sultan holds an honorary degree, including Oxford and King's College London, have created petitions demanding the title be rescinded.

Oxford SU’s Vice President of Welfare and Equal Opportunities Ellie MacDonald issued a statement saying “all honorary doctorates should reflect the ethos of the University.

"If they fail to meet that, as in this case, they should be stripped of their honour."

The Oxford petition has accumulated over 110,000 signatures. The University of Oxford said it will review the Sultan’s honorary civil law degree appointed to him in 1993.

King’s College London has stated it will also review the award, made in 2011.

Lead Image Credit: Proudbruneian via Wikimedia

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