The Sultanate of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, recently implemented a law where sex between two men carries a punishment of death by stoning. It is part of Sharia Law, an Islamic legal system. The law is hideously homophobic and has been condemned by many, including the Sultan's nephew.
"I do not understand some people and their ideology," the Sultan's nephew, Prince Aleem, wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post. "You talk about human rights, but this is not human rights? By judging someone like this proves hypocrisy. I do not stand by it whatsoever. I am so sorry for those who are affected or feel looked down on."
The law also shows a glaring sexist double standard. While sex between two men is punishable by stoning, the punishment for sex between two women is one hundred lashes. Both sentences are horrific and wrong in every capacity. I'm not saying one is a walk in the park, but it infuriates me that one gender is seen as more threatening for their homosexuality. I don't think men or women should be killed for being gay or bisexual. I don't think they should get any amount of lashings, either.
When news of this law broke, many were fired up on social media. Several people were searching for something to combat the hate. Ellen DeGeneres posted a message to her Instagram, encouraging people to boycott hotels owned by the Sultan. These hotels are located in the US, UK, France, and Italy.
While many supported DeGeneres, there were some who criticized the call to boycott. Their reasoning wasn't because they supported Sharia Law, but because it didn't seem to be capable of having a real effect. They felt DeGeneres boycotting hotels was a simple and privileged way of combating a very serious, heavy issue. While I can understand this perspective, I think the boycott is a step in the right direction.
So many people don't pay enough attention to the homophobic and violent attacks brought on by Sharia Law. Some don't want to appear Islamophobic, which is odd, considering we can attack Christianity freely when some of its followers preach homophobia. However, I think the greater reason lies in the fact that we feel helpless. Brunei is so far away. What can we possibly do to stop this hateful ideology?
When DeGeneres called for the boycott, I believe she was trying to say, "There is something we can do." As people who aren't being affected by Sharia Law and aren't in power to change it, this is one small way we can take action. Sure, it might not be much as of this moment. However, I think it can be the start of a much larger movement.
Another reason people don't pay enough attention to the homophobia (not to mention misogyny) of Sharia Law is because they forget. It's so far from our lives here in the West. It's easier for people to forget about something when it's not happening to them. However, since we are in a position of freedom, we are people who can help bring a change. Some might feel that's too idealistic, but we won't know if we don't try.
It starts with something like a boycott, then it grows into something bigger. Change needs to happen. It's wrong to kill people for having sex with each other. These are people's lives we're talking about. Human life is at stake here. Something needs to be done and it has to start somewhere. It starts small. It starts simple. It starts with you.