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French celebrities call for boycott of Brunei-owned hotel over sharia law

media US comic Jay Leno (c) demonstrates outside the Beverly Hills Hotel, also owned by the Sultan of Brunei Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn

Business tycoon François-Henri Pinault and fashion editor Anna Wintour are among hundreds of people here in France calling for a boycott of Paris’s Meurice Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah sparked international criticism last month when he implemented sharia law in Brunei, making homosexuality and adultery punishable by death through stoning.

Celebrities in the US and Britain, including American TV hostess Ellen DeGeneres and British billionaire businessman Richard Branson, were among the first to call for a boycott of the Sultan's business interests.

Brunei's supreme leader is worth an estimated 18 billion euros, money he made from his country's oil and gas industry and his Dorchester Collection runs a number of luxury hotels, including the Meurice.

Dorchester Collection director François Delahaye slammed the boycott.

"Boycotting hotels in countries where sharia is not implemented only makes these hotels’ employees suffer,” he told RFI. “We have 3,500 employees working in our hotels including 1,000 in France. This will only penalise those employees. Why? Because if the boycott really works well, we’ll have fewer customers and if we have fewer customers we’ll need fewer employees to serve them.”

Delahaye accused the boycott’s backers of hypocrisy.

“Monsieur Pinault, who has called for the boycott, has a few of his brands based in Saudi Arabia. He doesn’t mind taking the profits from selling goods to rich people there," he commented.

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