‘Evil Flourishes When Good People Do Nothing’: Famed Comedian Joins Protest Against Harsh Shariah Laws in Brunei

The Beverly Hills Hotel has a rich Hollywood history, but that hasn’t stopped comedians Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, among others, from protesting and speaking out against its owners.

Leno joined protesters across the street from the hotel Monday to decry the fact that the hotel is owned by the oil-rich government of Brunei.

The Southeast Asian nation has been in the headlines of late over the phasing in of new Islamic laws that will enact harsh punishments for homosexuality, abortions and adultery.

Other celebrities like Sharon Osbourne and Richard Branson have also taken to social media to speak out against Brunei’s harsh criminal laws. On April 22, DeGeneres tweeted, “I won’t be visiting the Hotel Bel-Air or the Beverly Hills Hotel until this is resolved” (Brunei also owns Hotel Bel-Air).

Comedian Jay Leno participates in a rally to protest draconian punishment of women and gay people announced by the Sultan of Brunei outside the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan, on May 5, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Hassanal Bolkiah, sultan of Brunei, began enacting the new Shariah laws this month, which call for a range of punishments, including fines and imprisonment for those who fail to show up for Friday prayers or who get pregnant outside of marriage, the Washington Post reported.

“The decision to implement the [Shariah penal code] is not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command as written in the Koran,” Bolkiah said last week.

Later this year the punishments will ramp up, with flogging and the severing of limbs becoming the punishment for those who rob or commit property crimes. And death by stoning is also scheduled to take effect next year for those who commit sodomy or who enter adulterous relationships.

Most of these punishments can also be applied to the nation’s 440,000 non-Muslims — one-third of the country’s population, as the Associated Press noted.

“This is 2014, not 1814,” Leno told the crowd, according to the Los Angeles Times.

He continued, “Evil flourishes when good people do nothing, and that is pretty much what this is. This is not complicated. These are not crazy left-wing wacko people.”

The comedian and former “Tonight Show” host went on to say that the controversy over Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling should be considered minor when compared to what’s happening in Brunei.

“I mean, we get so upset when a team owner says something inappropriate,” Leno added. “Here are people being killed, stoned to death. … It’s just a matter of priorities, that’s what it is.”


He and his wife, Mavis, co-chair the annual Global Women’s Rights Awards, an event put on by the Feminist Majority Foundation. While it is typically held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, it was moved this year to another location, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In addition to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s decision to pull its event, the Motion Picture & Television Fund is also moving its Night Before the Oscar party next year to another location, saying that it cannot tolerate Brunei’s “repressive laws,” Variety reported.

The protest unfolded at the Will Rogers Park, which is across the street from the hotel.

(H/T: Washington Post)